The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Zoom meetings will become a favored pre-draft evaluation tool over facility visits.
Explanation: It’s been two years now since teams were last permitted to host prospects at their facilities. While they will likely resume that in 2022, Zoom meetings are guaranteed to remain, given their popularity, and may perhaps become the favored method of communicating with prospects, to the point where teams don’t use up all of their official visits.
We already know that there were some times in recent years where the Steelers didn’t even use all of the pre-draft visits allotted to them. The reality is that the vast majority that you can accomplish by bringing a player into your building for a visit, you can also accomplish virtually.
Prior to the pandemic, contact with prospects through methods like Zoom wasn’t permitted. The situation forced adaptation, and teams have taken a liking to the Zoom process, which can give them more access to prospects and allow for multiple ‘meetings.’
The logistics of bringing a player in for a visit can be cumbersome, and borderline unnecessary. We might even see prospects decline to come in for requested visits in the future, to be quite honest, unless they have some red flags attached to them such as a medical history.
There are just some things you can’t learn about a person without sitting across from them in the same room, shaking their hand, and genuinely interacting with them. Teams still value that interpersonal action, and because of that, will remain preferred where possible in the pre-draft process. We’ve seen that this offseason in free agency with free agents coming in for visits to teams. The Steelers hosted Karl Joseph, for example, though did not sign him.
It’s also an important experience for the prospects themselves, and thus for the teams, to get a feel for the ‘professional’ world. To be off on their own, being an adult, responsible for themselves, going on an interview, flying in a plane, and not sitting in their parents’ kitchen or wherever their Zoom meeting might be conducted from. I would imagine prospects’ agents will advise the majority of them not to decline visit requests, as well, if not simply because it’s a bad look. Only surefire top picks would be able to afford that without potentially damaging their value with leaked ‘sources’ badmouthing them.