Starting to sound like a broken record here but figuring out who the Pittsburgh Steelers have been interested in has always been difficult but this year it has been truly challenging. Like a scientist in a laboratory, finding prospects the team could be interested in takes a lot of research and effort.
Some tendencies that have worked in year’s past are not available this year. Tracking the pro days that Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have been in attendance for is not available due to the cancellation of Pro Days (They did attend Clemson’s pro day before the NFL cancelled the rest). Pre-draft visits are also off the table. But in the face of all cancellations, one event remained untouched – The Senior Bowl, an event where the Steelers have shown a tendency to select a few prospects year after year.
The Senior Bowl, which took place in late January went on as planned and the Steelers’ sent the house to the event. While the team typically selects a few prospects from the event each year, perhaps there is potential for even greater focus on the Senior Bowl this year seeing as it may have been the only real chance for Tomlin and Colbert to get some face to face time with the 2020 Draft class.
Here are all the prospects the Steelers have drafted that have participated in the Senior Bowl in recent years:
Other notes: Former Pitt RB Darrin Hall was also on the 2019 Senior Bowl roster and is now currently on the Steelers’ roster. Buffalo WR Anthony Johnson also participated in the 2019 Senior Bowl and signed a contract with the Steelers this past January.
Other notes: Rudolph did not actually play in the Senior Bowl due to a foot injury but he still attended. San Diego State DB Kameron Kelly also made the 2018 Senior Bowl and spent time with the Steelers in 2019.
Other notes: Quite a few players on the Steelers’ current roster that participated in the 2017 Senior Bowl though they were not originally drafted by Tomlin or Colbert. Recently acquired defensive end Chris Wormley is one of those players. Zach Banner is another and Ryan Switzer is also another player from the 2017 Senior Bowl that are currently on the Steelers’ roster.
Other notes: Former Steelers’ defensive tackle Javon Hargrave was a late addition to the 2016 Senior Bowl as he was invited later in the week due to an injury to Sheldon Rankins. Tight end Nick Vannett also was listed on the 2016 Senior Bowl roster. The Steelers acquired him early in the 2019 season and he spent the year with them before signing with the Denver Broncos in the 2020 offseason.
Other notes: Cornerback Steven Nelson is another 2015 Senior Bowl invite and the Steelers circled back around to him, signing him to a three year, $25million deal last offseason.
The list goes on and on. In 2014, the Steelers drafted Jordan Zumwalt, Daniel McCullers and Wesley Johnson, all participated in that year’s Senior Bowl. Chris Boswell, the team’s current kicker, was also a 2014 Senior Bowl participant though he was not drafted by the team.
In every year this decade, the Steelers have selected Senior Bowl participants in the draft. Though 2009 was the only year in which the team used their first selection on a Senior Bowl participant when they selected Ziggy Hood. The team has not used their first selection on a Senior Bowl participant since Hood but that may change this year for a few reasons.
Firstly, the Steelers do not have a first round selection this year and more than a few of their second round selections have come from the Senior Bowl, more names than just the ones mentioned above. Marcus Gilbert is an example of another second round Senior Bowl selection along with Mike Adams.
Secondly, the Steelers have not had the opportunity to meet face to face with other prospects like in years’ prior. A Clemson pro day visit and dinner are the only face to face meetings which we know Tomlin and Colbert had the chance to attend. This could possibly leave the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine as the only chance the team had to meet prospects in person.
There is a very high chance the Steelers continue to select players from the Senior Bowl this weekend and there is a chance that their first pick also goes toward a player who participated in the event. Some names that could fit the bill for pick #49 include:
USC WR Michael Pittman Jr.
Oklahoma DT Neville Gallimore
Michigan OLB Josh Uche
Temple OL Matt Hennessy
Baylor WR Denzel Mims
Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool
Cal S Ashtyn Davis
LSU OL Lloyd Cushenberry III
Tennessee EDGE Darrell Taylor Jr.
Those are just a few names who could be in play on Friday night. The selection pool runs much deeper than that. The Senior Bowl has been a marquee event for years and it is an event that the Steelers have shown a tendency to select from. With the cancellation of all pro days and pre draft visits this year, that could make it an even bigger hotspot for Tomlin and Colbert this weekend.