This is spoken like a true head coach. Those three little words. Trust the tape.
That’s the phrase we throw around a lot but for Mike Tomlin, it’s one he greatly values. Though this is a league becoming more accepting of analytics, to him, video still has final say.
“I don’t think there’s any substitute for looking at the video,” Tomlin told reporters at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pre-draft press conference. “The video tells you a lot, often explains a lot. It explains the presence of stats or a lack of stats. The schematics of what they’re asked to do. Certain things you pick up just from watching video and it might explain some of those questions you might have. And that’s why obviously video is a significant portion of the equation for us.”
Tomlin gave a specific example in reference to why a cornerback might not have many interceptions.
“In some schemes it may require their backs to the quarterback quite a bit in underneath coverage. They might not have vision to break or have visual opportunities for the ball, for example.”
Though Tomlin didn’t bring up his name, Mackensie Alexander would be the poster child for that argument, failing to record a pick in his Clemson career.
Video plays a critical role for injured players, ones unable to get timed leading up to the draft. Kevin Colbert expanded upon that.
“We have to evaluate them based on what they did. We won’t be able to verify certain things like 40 yard dash or change of direction. So you evaluate them based on what they did and you follow that up based on what our doctors tell us. When they will be healthy. And it’s a projection, it’s a guess, and we have to take a calculated risk.”
The most well-known example of that is Heath Miller, who couldn’t workout prior to the 2005 draft due to a hernia injury. Though he was able to play Week One, and practically every game the rest of his career, Colbert admitted that he couldn’t remember being completely confident in knowing that when they selected him. The parallel drawn to 2016 revolves around Karl Joseph, a popular pick to the Steelers, who tore his ACL early last season.
While Tomlin did say the team will lean on analytics in certain situations, his appreciation or frequency of its use hasn’t changed much over the past several years. That can be a debated as a good or bad thing, “purists” clashing with those in the new-wave statistics camp, especially as the league shifts into the latter, led by the Cleveland Browns own spin on the moneyball way.
For Pittsburgh, one thing is clear. Video is the driving force behind any draft pick.