One of the most intriguing aspects of the pre-draft process to me is how much input the position coaches have on evaluating prospects. They are of course coaches and not scouts, but coaching also entails talent evaluation.
So that’s why I was glad that Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert was asked about that very question when he appeared with Steelers Nation Unite for an interview answering members’ questions, asked by Missi Matthews.
The member asked the question because offensive line coach Mike Munchak seemed to be surprised when the Steelers drafted tackle Chukwuma Okorafor with their second pick in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
“The coaches, whether they’re new to the staff or not, that’s irrelevant”, Colbert told Matthews. “They come in and we teach them what we do and how we do it and why we do it, so they’re included in the process”.
He went into more detail, explaining that the coaches obviously don’t have much of a role in the evaluation process during the season because they’re kind of busy doing other things. But “once our season’s over, we’ve gone through and we have our initial evaluations and preliminary evaluations”, he pointed out.
“So once we can get the coaches involved after the season, we may give them a list of 10 to 15 guys at their position that we want them to look at and evaluate and give their opinion on. And that includes all the coaches on the staff, no matter how long they’ve been here.”
The Steelers have three new coaches on the staff this year, and all three of those coaches’ positions ended up being addressed in the draft. In two of the three cases, those coaches had direct experience coaching either the player or with the school from which the player was drafted.
“So the coaches are involved”, Colbert went on. “Coach might have been surprised because we only drafted one offensive lineman since Coach Munchak came on board with us. So I think he’ll be hopefully pleasantly surprised once he gets to meet and spend a little time with Chukwuma”.
The general manager is actually a bit off on that front. Okorafor is the third offensive lineman the Steelers have drafted since Munchak was hired in 2014, not the second. The first was Wesley Johnson in that season, a fifth-round pick. He spent time as the ninth lineman that year but was waived to make room for another position due to injury and ended up getting claimed.
Then the team drafted tackle Jerald Hawkins in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, but was the ninth lineman for most of this past season. He did dress for most of the second half of the season and even was used as a tackle-eligible.
Hawkins and Okorafor figure to compete against one another to replace Chris Hubbard as the swing tackle.