While Mike Tomlin seemed to grow somewhat irritated after the draft when he was asked about the significance of the role Matt Canada played in the Pittsburgh Steelers ending up with two players that he coached at Maryland in 2018 during the draft last month, he wasn’t so quick to downplay it more recently when speaking to Terps head coach Mike Locksley.
Appearing on Locksley’s ‘Late Night With Locks’ program, he talked about how the unconventional nature of the offseason and the evaluation process really put a premium on teams’ ability to gain information from anywhere possible.
“I was really comfortable with the inside knowledge that we had based on the relationships with you guys and the past experiences of Matt Canada working there”, he said. Another of his former coaches on the Steelers’ staff, Scottie Montgomery, is with the program now.
“It was really helpful in terms of us knowing the things they need to do to take the next step”, he went on. “We all like to sit back and look at a prospect or a draft pick and what they’re capable of doing right now, but as coaches, we’ve always got to be on the grind in terms of how we can take them to the next level. Knowing a little about them, whether positively or negatively, where they come from, what their aspirations and hopes and dreams are, helps you in that regard”.
The Steelers believe that they have a good read on Anthony McFarland and Antoine Brooks, not only professionally, but personally, even though they didn’t have a lot of one-on-one interaction. Both of them after the draft made it clear that when Tomlin was on campus, it was as a father visiting his son, who is on the roster, and not as an NFL head coach.
One thing that was revealed during the interview that I wasn’t previously aware of is the fact that Tomlin’s brother played defensive back for the Terps back in 1989, so the family is not new to the Maryland program by any means, even if Mike Tomlin himself ended up going to William & Mary.
While some are skeptical about the motivations behind drafting these two players because of the coaching connections, I do think there is some value in what Tomlin was talking about regarding gaining intel about what it takes to help a player reach the next step.
There is no secret formula, but if you know how to motivate a person, or how to train him, and you know that he’s malleable and has the requisite motivation to succeed, then you’ve already tackled one of the biggest obstacles of growth. Knowing this before you draft a player can be a big boost.