2021 Offseason Questions: Will Steelers Select Conservatively Based On Medical Evaluations?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row. Pittsburgh went 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason. Those resulted in their early exit.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. Though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Will the Steelers be more conservative in drafting players based on medicals this year?

The 2021 NFL Draft probably has less clarity on the medical information of a large number of its prospects than has any draft in many years. It’s the first time in quite a long time before the NFL Scouting Combine existed, the functionally most important feature of which is the extensive medical evaluations.

According to general manager Kevin Colbert, the league only brought in about 150 prospects to undergo physicals. The remainder of the draft class — another 250 players or so — had physicals done from remote locations.

Both Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin talked about the need to trust their medical staff and the contacts that they have passing along medical information, and there have been reports that teams around the league are uncomfortable with the amount of knowledge that they have on the health of many players. Particularly as you get to the later rounds.

Obviously, this raises questions about how it might influence draft decisions. Nobody wants to draft a player only to see his career derailed by injury issues. Particularly those that would be easily identifiable through their routine examinations.

So will the Steelers be more conservative when it comes to utilizing draft capital where it concerns player health? Will that be limited to those they have less information on because they weren’t in the 150 brought into Indy? Obviously Landon Dickerson is the biggest name, and he surely had an in-person physical.

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