Analytics is a growing part of the NFL and even broader than that, sports in general. Circling back to comments Kevin Colbert made before the draft, he offered a brief view into who currently runs the team’s analytics department.
In a pre-draft conference call with local media, Colbert was asked about the influence of analytics, especially in a draft process robbed of many in-person visits old-school coaches and scouts value.
“The analytic part will continue to grow,” Colbert said via the team’s Youtube Channel. “We have two young men who help us in our scouting staff. Tosin and Jay. They do awesome work.”
The two men Colbert’s referring to are Tosin Kazeem and Jay Whitmire. Both are listed as “Football Analysts” on the team website and replace Kasim Kassam, who left the organization last year. He took a job with the language app/website Duolingo as a “distinguished data scientist in residence,” he told Steelers Depot. He’s currently Director Of Baseball Research for the Minnesota Twins.
That was a big loss for the organization, shoes now filled by Kassam and Whitmire. The two men come from different football paths. Kassam broke into the NFL as an intern with the New York Jets before becoming a Scouting Coordinator for the Tennessee Titans from 2017-2018. Pittsburgh hired him last year. Whitmire was hired as an Analytics Intern in December of 2018 after working as a digital analytics consultant for the website Datacamp.com. Both men played college ball; Kassam at Union College, Whitmire at Virginia.
Pittsburgh isn’t known as football’s biggest advocates of analytics but Colbert shed a little light into how that element helps them during the draft.
“They provide information and we use that information to supplement our scouting information. Maybe answer some questions that we have if we’re looking for tiebreaker-type things.”
Last offseason, Mike Tomlin said he was more open to using analytics.
“The amount of information and the speed of the information and the speed in which decisions need to be made on my job are very different than 13 years ago when I got this opportunity,” he said in an interview with L3 Leadership. “Analytics is something that’s fast evolving in our business.”
It’s at least positive to see the Steelers commit two front office members to crunching data as opposed to just one under Kassam. How much the team will truly embrace them, though, remains an open question.