Tweeted this out a couple days ago but with pre-draft visits beginning to be announced – the Pittsburgh Steelers have two known already – it’s important to file away when making your own mock draft. In trying to figure out who the Steelers will pick at 28th, the best place to start is where Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert travel on the Pro Day circuit.
We covered this topic last season. At the time, late March, we created a short list of players who would be consideration. I kept it broad to stay true to the findings, even lumping in no-shot selections like Mitch Tribusky, but one name on the list was T.J. Watt. Lo and behold, he was the pick.
He never came in for a pre-draft visit last year. Frankly, there was no reason to. Pittsburgh sent the house to his Pro Day, including Tomlin and Colbert, and had a Pro Day dinner with him. That is what seems to be most important in determining who the pick is – the dinners.
Look at the last three first rounders: Bud Dupree, Artie Burns, and Watt. None of those three made a visit to Pittsburgh before getting selected. But Pro Days? The Steelers went HAM. Everyone there to see Watt from Colbert, Tomlin, to Keith Butler and Joey Porter. 2016 was a little less heavy, partly due to the schedule splitting Colbert and Tomlin up (Florida State held their Pro Day the same afternoon) but Tomlin was on-hand to watch Artie Burns workout. Pittsburgh did the same with the corner they were going to take, William Jackson III, before the Bengals stole him one pick earlier. Tomlin and Butler dined with Dupree at his Pro Day dinner back in 2015.
Go back to 2012 and only two first round picks, Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier, had official pre-draft visits.
Sure, a pre-draft visit isn’t a bad thing. I imagine there are times where that happens because Pro Day scheduling makes a in-person trip impossible. Stanford shares the same Pro Day as Ohio State this year; it’ll be interesting to see how the team approaches that. Beyond the first round, pre-draft visits certainly matter. Pittsburgh took two from their last last season, three if you count James Conner, and that was considered light for the year.
It’s information to file away for the next month. After Pro Days conclude the first week of April, we’ll create our list of first round options.