Each and every year, teams are allowed to host 30 pre-draft visits form players that aren’t considered a “local.” For instance, in this year’s draft crop, Pitt tackle T.J. Clemmings won’t count against the Pittsburgh Steelers because he can probably walk from the Pitt campus to the team facility. However, I’ve went back the last several years, and in fact, each and every year, a surprising amount of the players the team has brought in for visits, or paid visits at respective pro days, have indeed ended up getting drafted or picked up post-draft as a free agent.
There are some very impressive names on the list this year, including some of the top pass rushers and, surprisingly, wide receivers, available in this year’s draft. If Kevin Colbert sticks to his best player available philosophy, and doesn’t see a “need” pick as being worthy at their spot at 22, then perhaps we could see a Jaelen Strong or a DeVante Parker being taken. Strong was in this past week and the team was smitten with Parker at his pro day, with head coach Mike Tomlin seen conversing with his mother.
The list in 2014 is proof, as linebacker Ryan Shazier, defensive end Stephon Tuitt, wide receiver Martavis Bryant, linebacker Jordan Zumwalt and tight end Rob Blanchflower were all visitors at one point or another. Their fifth-rounder, cornerback Shaquille Richardson, did not visit to my knowledge, but the team did have intel on him, as defensive backs coach, Carnell Lake, recruited him during his tenure at UCLA, as cornerbacks coach. All six ended up getting drafted by the team as one of their nine picks, which further validates the point.
In 2013, the list included Steelers’ draftees linebacker Jarvis Jones, Nik Embernate, safety Shamarko Thomas and linebacker Vince Williams. Cornerback Terry Hawthorne allegedly had a visit scheduled but I couldn’t find it. Also, despite receiving late round grades, Embernate went undrafted, and the team was happy to pick up the physical guard. Although not a visitor, to my knowledge, Tomlin and company were in attendance at the Michigan State Pro Day, where they likely had their eye on stud running back, Le’Veon Bell. I’d say that selection in the second round has worked out pretty well for them. In this draft, five of their nine picks were visitors.
In 2012, the team’s first-rounder, David DeCastro, wasn’t a visitor, in large part because he wasn’t supposed to be there when they went on the clock. Their second-rounder, tackle Mike Adams was, as were tackle Kelvin Beachum, wide receiver Toney Clemons and tight end David Paulson. In this draft, the team had nine picks, but only four of them were pre-draft visits.
Back in the 2011 draft, tackle Marcus Gilbert, cornerback Curtis Brown cornerback Cortez Allen, running back Baron Batch and tight end Weslye Saunders were visitors, with Saunders being signed as an undrafted free agent after the draft. So only four of their seven picks ended up being draft visitors.
As most of these drafts show, there’s a majority of players who are actually drafted by the team, so it’s not as if they’re just inviting in random players for the hell of it. As stated earlier, the team is showing interest in a receiver early, and even the team doctors were on-hand checking out Strong’s wrist, so all indications are they weren’t just doing it for their health. Upon glancing at the pre-draft visit list so far, one would have to be blind to not see the overwhelming majority of positions are either a-cornerback, b-outside linebacker/defensive end, c-tight end or d-wide receiver. The brain trust is simply being prepared for the cards to fall whichever way they may, and if a top flight receiver lands in their laps, then that more than likely will be the pick. In a few weeks looking back, that same pick will likely be on the pre-draft visit list as well.