The end of the preseason is a terrible time for players. That’s when rosters get trimmed from 90 to 53, putting nearly 1200 players out of work. The end of the regular season is a terrible time for coaches. Black Monday, as its called, is when head coaches and general managers get canned.
Lesser known is what happens shortly after the draft. It’s a terrible time to be a scout. If an organization is going to make changes, it’s almost always done right about now. Newly hired front offices bringing in “their guys.” Scouts’ contracts expiring, the team deciding to go in a different direction.
It doesn’t make the headlines. But search around and you’ll see all the moves being made around the NFL. Neil Stratton is one of the best follows for those smaller personnel decisions. His timeline lit up over the last two weeks.
So post-draft is Black Monday for scouts.
Except in Pittsburgh. That’s a place, just as they do with head coaches, where you’ll find continuity. I think I’ve written about the topic before but it’s worth mentioning. There’s rarely big turnover without the scouting staff. And the names tucked away in the front office are generally people who have been with the organization a long time.
Dan Rooney Jr, Player Personnel Director – 25 years
Brandon Hunt, Pro Scouting Coordinator – 10 years
Phil Kriedler, College Scouting Coordinator – 29 years
Rick Reiprish, Senior Assistant – 5 years
Mark Bruener, College Scout – 10 years
Mike Butler, College Scout – 7 years
Dan Colbert, College Scout – 9 years
Kelvin Fisher, Scout – 15 years (with team from 2000 to 2012 before being rehired last year)
Mark Gorscak, College Scout – 25 years
Chidi Iwuoma, BLESTO – 7 years
Bruce McNorton, College Scout – 20 seasons
Dave Pettet, Pro/College Scout – 16 seasons
All their scouts have been with the team at least five years. Eight of them at least 15 and combined, there’s 178 years of experience.
Of course, you can attribute that stability to the top. It’s no surprise given how the Rooney’s operate. With only two head coaches this century and Kevin Colbert running the show since 2000, there hasn’t been the trickle down effect other organizations endure when making coaching changes.
Sure, some will look at those names and scream nepotism. There’s one of the Rooney’s, Colbert (Kevin’s son), and Butler, son of Jack Butler, former Steeler and longtime BLESTO scout. But there’s a family component most teams don’t have either. Something Mike Mayock pointed out in an interview with Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley several years ago.
“I think the Steeler organization, because it’s a family organization, is a little more understanding and a little less corporate,” he said. “And I’ve always had tremendous respect for the organization.”
It’s let the Steelers be consistent in their approach to scouting. Every member of the staff knows how the team operates, how to scout, and what the team looks for. Who fits in with the culture, on and off the field. Where they’ve succeeded in their evaluations, where they’ve failed, and in the latter, where to improve.
That’s why, if you look at how they’ve drafted over the last 20 years, Pittsburgh has among the best in football. They’re able to back up the philosophy of “build from within” because the trust exists to accurately evaluate prospects who will make or break the team.