When you think of the Pittsburgh Steelers, you think of the continuity with their coaches. Three since 1969. Then there’s the general manager, Kevin Colbert, entering his 17th year with the team. It’s uncommon job security in the ultra-competitive, impatient world of sports, and certainly makes the Steelers unique.
“I think what Kevin Colbert and his group are really, really good at it, when they stack their board, they know what positions are priority for them,” Mike Mayock told Missi Matthews at the Scouting Combine. “Sticking to their board and trusting it. Kevin Colbert knows what a Pittsburgh Steeler looks like and smells like.”
And that’s completely true, to the point where Colbert’s tendencies have become somewhat predictable, not that it’s a bad thing. But the NFL Draft doesn’t begin with him. It starts with his scouting staff, who do the legwork during the fall. There’s continuity, familiarity with that bunch, and if that’s not equally important, it’s pretty darn close.
It’s important to write this now because for many staffs, this is their Black Monday. As curious as it may sound to some, right after the draft is when most scouts get fired as the organization wipes the slate clean before the new year begins. And evidently, it’s been one of the worst year for the lower rungs of the front office.
From Neil Stratton, a former agent who has a close ear to the league’s inner-workings.
In 17 years covering the #NFL scouting world, I've never seen anything like the number of dismissals in the last 48 hours.
— Neil Stratton (@InsideTheLeague) May 1, 2017
Per Stratton’s timeline, here are the teams that have fired scouts since the draft:
New York Jets
To be fair, and this is one of the reasons why scouting staffs change after the draft, is several of these teams have new head coaches and/or GMs. Naturally, the new regime’s guys are brought in. Still, there’s consequences to that and scouts lose continuity working for each other or under the same boss.
When teams make coaching or front office changes, the ones that hit the headlines, there’s a trickle down effect throughout the entire front office. You lose continuity on that end, too.
Check out how long all the Steelers’ scouts have been around. No changes have been announced following this year’s draft so let’s assume the group is safe.
Phil Kreidler/College Scouting Coordinator: Entering 27th season
Mark Gorscak College Area Scout: Entering 23rd Season
Bruce McNorton Jr/College Area Scout: Entering 18th season
Dan Rooney Jr/Player Personnel Coordinator + Southeast Scout: Entering 17th season
Dave Petett/College Scout: Entering 14th season
Dan Colbert/Northeast + Atlantic College Scout: Entering 7th season
Mike Butler/Area Scout: Entering 5th season
Chidi Iwuoma/BLESTO Scout: Entering 5th season
Mark Bruener/Area Scout: Entering 5th season
Rick Reiprish/Senior Assistant to College Scouting: Entering 3rd season
In total, that’s 124 years of scouting experience just in Pittsburgh. And all but one person in the scouting department will be going into at least their fifth year. The only exception is Reiprish, who has spent more than three decades in football before recently coming over to the Steelers.
Without even knowing the exact inner-workings of the Steelers’ business, you know it’s an efficient, streamlined process. Every scout knows their expectations, who to report to, and the type of scouting report the team is looking for.
Colbert and Mike Tomlin deserve credit for great draft classes, they’re the final decision-makers after all, but it begins from the ground up. Give credit for the consistent support staff Colbert and Tomlin have been afforded. It’s not just Colbert who knows what a Steeler looks like. It’s the entire scouting staff. And the organization is truly better off for it.