Though the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended earlier than anyone hoped for or expected, the upside was an earlier start on the 2018 offseason. For Mike Tomlin and his staff, that will have to wait another week. With the Steelers selected to coach the Pro Bowl, none of the coaches will be at Mobile this week.
Tomlin, however, didn’t seem too concerned about missing out on one of the draft’s biggest events.
“We lose something there,” Tomlin said. “But we lost something there because we were playing a year ago. I didn’t necessarily plan on being in Mobile.”
The Senior Bowl is a great chance for the coaching staff, who aren’t working on scouting during the season, to become familiar with some of the classes top prospects. It’s the first time to meet these guys personally and without a hard interview cap like the NFL Combine has. I’m assuming there’s a 100% chance Tomlin would’ve been there had he been available and the second part of his statement just being his typical coy, Tomlin self.
Of course, Steelers’ scouts will be there. Influencers like Phil Kriedler, their director of scouting, and pro scouting coordinator Brandon Hunt, will be in attendance. GM Kevin Colbert should be there as well, with he and Tomlin having the final say on who gets selected come draft day.
If there is any upside, many of Mobile’s biggest names have pulled out of the event either due to injury or to train elsewhere. And there isn’t a ton of talent at some positions of need, like inside linebacker, to miss out on.
Like Tomlin noted, they missed out on the Senior Bowl last year after playing in the AFC Title game. They wound up drafting three players from last year’s group: Cam Sutton, Josh Dobbs, and Colin Holba.
Any exposure to these players helps but for Pittsburgh, it’s probably most helpful to find small school gems. The Steelers are generally opposed to drafting players below the FCS-level unless there’s good tape of them holding their own against NFL-caliber competition. Such was the case with Javon Hargrave, who balled out at the East/West Shrine game in 2016 before getting an injury call-up at the Senior Bowl where he continued to do the same. John Mitchell was impressed enough to work him out at South Carolina State’s Pro Day and ultimately, the team drafted him in the third round. The rare times they do dip into the small school class, it’s generally defensive linemen and always defense. They haven’t taken an FCS player on offense in the Tomlin era; Willie Colon was the previous one back in 2006.
This Senior Bowl class has plenty of potential small school gems. DL Nathan Shephard from Fort Hayes State, North Dakota State ILB Nick DeLuca, South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert, and OT Alex Cappa out of Humboldt State top the list.
To kick things off, the onus will be on the scouts, which, to be fair, is what they get paid for, to begin the offseason draft process. We’ll have our full Senior Bowl preview up on the site tomorrow morning.