There’s no question the NFL Draft is much more of art than science. The Pittsburgh Steelers have seemed to largely steer clear of the analytical component during this process. If they were a college student, they’d definitely be a theater major.
One surprising tidbit of information Kevin Colbert admitted in speaking with the media Tuesday reinforced that idea. He told reporters the team doesn’t use a trade value chart, a tool most other teams in football have that their disposal.
“People talk about the charts,” Colbert said. “We don’t use a chart. We know other teams will use a chart. And we know when we call them they’re going to say, ‘well it doesn’t match our chart value.’ And that’s fine, they can do that. But in our minds, we have to spend what we want to spend if we want a certain player. And we have to demand if teams try to trade up to us, we don’t follow a chart. We know what they’re saying and that’s up to them but we’ll make up our own values.”
Maybe I’m being a little naive here but I have to think the Steelers are one of the few teams in football who don’t use a chart at all. That’s not to say teams and beholden by them and can’t be flexible, and to be clear, there is no one universal chart that every club uses anyway, but Pittsburgh seems to freewheeling over here.
Colbert did cite trading up for Troy Polamalu and Santonio Holmes as well worth the picks they sent, something everyone can agree with.
“For Santonio, we went from 32 to 25. And we gave up a 3 and a 4. People say, ‘you gave up too much.’ And again, he caught the touchdown that won a Super Bowl. So was it too much? No. So every year, it’s relative.”
Last year, Pittsburgh moved up three spots, sending #79 and #220 to Seattle in order to jump the Cincinnati Bengals and select Mason Rudolph in the third round. It was their first mid-draft trade, not including players, since 2013 when Colbert gave up a future third rounder to select Shamarko Thomas. The year before, they moved up ten spots, sending their 4th and 6th round picks, to Washington in order to nab NT Alameda Ta’amu. Neither of those moves worked out.
Pittsburgh does have an analytic component to their front office and I’m sure on some level, that influences their draft plan. Combining testing with tape grades, interview, and medical to create their big board. Karim Kassam was hired a couple years ago and holds the title of “Analytics & Football Researcher Coordinator.” They also hired Jay Whitmire as an analytics intern back in December.
But when Colbert and Tomlin are allowed to make the decisions, and those are the two members driving the bus, they’re not stopping to ask for directions. They’ll just figure it out.