There’s no question this draft season is unlike any other in recent memory. Pro Days wiped out. Top 30 visits cancelled. It’s hard to evaluate small-school players or those with character red flags or injuries (there will be no Combine re-checks this year). Still, Kevin Colbert isn’t using that as an excuse for this year’s draft class. To prove that point, he cited the greatest class in NFL history, 1974, where the Steelers identified five future Hall of Famers without the luxury of information teams have today. He shared the story with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews.
“I’ve reminded our staff and our scouts from the very beginning of this whole process since the changes with the rules, I’ve reminded them of the 1974 draft the Steelers conducted. When they ended up with Five Hall of Famers…they didn’t have Pro Days, they didn’t have Combines, they relied on what they felt what those guys were as football players. If we have to go into this draft with the same mentality, that’s our challenge. We’ll do the very best we can.”
As a refresher, a reminder of that glorious 1974 class.
1st Round – Lynn Swann
2nd Round – Jack Lambert
4th Round – John Stallworth
5th Round – Mike Webster
UDFA – Donnie Shell
Four of their first five picks, with the exception of Jimmy Allen (who had a successful career in Detroit), were inducted into Canton. A feat unmatched and will never be done again. They used the football expertise of the scouting department, led by Bill Nunn, taking advantage of teams who lagged behind scouting HBCUs, and some crafty tricks of the trade,too. Nunn stayed an extra day to get Stallworth’s 40 time on a dry surface and, as rumor has it, didn’t share the game film he had with the rest of the league.
Though today’s circumstances are unusual and difficult, it’s still possible to identify talent. There’s a player’s entire career of film to go through, Combine results, and teams have been able to at least Skype/FaceTime prospects for “visits.”
Pittsburgh also has the benefit of continuity. Their scouting department has remain virtually unchanged for several years. Aside from intern Dennis MacInnis, all but one scout has been with the team for at least the past five years. The only exception to that is Kelvin Fisher, hired in 2018, but he worked with the Steelers from 2000-2012, a very familiar face to the organization. If there’s any team capable of handling this curveball, it’s one with their process in place. As opposed to say, a new or young scouting staff still trying to figure out process and expectations with a newly hired GM or coach.