Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert confirmed to reporters yesterday that the team, as of yet, had not conducted any pre-draft visits with college prospects. One might be wondering if they are so behind as a result of the restrictions placed on them amid the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down any mobile function of the offseason.
The answer is no. If you go back through recent years and look at their history of pre-draft visits, they ordinarily don’t begin bringing in players until the very end of March and the first few days of April. Colbert said that he believes they will begin proceeding with their visits in a couple of days, so they are actually right on track with where they would ordinarily be.
The timing isn’t a coincidence. Ordinarily the Steelers would have been on the Pro Day circuit right now, with Colbert and Mike Tomlin in attendance at quite a few of them. This is also around the time that the Spring Annual League Meeting would be held, so they like to begin the pre-draft visit process after that.
“What we’re going to do, the visits that we had planned when we got back from owner’s meetings and pro days, we’re going to do video/audio type (interviews) with that player”, Will Graves of the Associated Press quoted Colbert as saying. “That’s good access. It’s not as good as sitting down with the guys … (but) we’ll make the most of it”.
That is, of course, what teams are limited to this year, since they are unable to bring in players to their facilities. And there are restrictions on what they are allowed to do with this, even. In actuality, while they may be beginning the process at the same time, they will be behind, because the NFL is only allowing teams to hold three ‘visits’ per week. Teams are allowed 30 pre-draft visits, and there are not 10 weeks remaining before the draft. They may only manage about a dozen visits or so in time.
As we have talked about in recent years, the Steelers do value their pre-draft visits, as they typically end up drafting or signing as free agents at least three or four of these players every year. Another large chunk of the players that they add will have been players that they had formal meetings with either at the NFL Scouting Combine (which did happen) and at their Pro Days (which largely did not).
Given the fact that there have only been a couple of Pro Days and teams will only be allowed about half of the pre-draft visits they ordinarily would, realistically, it makes the Combine changes all the more damning.
Previously, teams would be allowed to have formal meetings with up to 60 prospects. Because of time restrictions they’ve forced upon themselves by shifting the event to primetime, meetings are now limited to only 45 prospects.
Colbert and Tomlin note that between the Combine, Pro Days, and pre-draft visits, they may meet with hundreds of players during the pre-draft process. This year, they are not likely to have even met with 100 in a meaningful capacity. But every team is operating under the same restrictions, the only way to even the playing field.