If there is one darkhorse when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the 24th pick, it might be Tulsa LB Zaven Collins. At least one draft analyst believes there’s a strong chance Collins is the guy when Pittsburgh turns in their card. In a Cowboys’ draft discussion for the team website, Bryan Broaddus believes Collins is squarely on the Steelers’ radar.
“I’ll tell you another team the [scouts] are all talking about is the Pittsburgh Steelers,” he said on the show. “They’re talking about them losing Bud Dupree, maybe the Steelers get involved. Everybody has the Steelers taking a running back. But… a lot of scouts talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers. Keep an eye on that team.”
On paper, Collins is a good scheme fit. He’s best as an off-ball linebacker in a 3-4 scheme where he can run and chase. But he has some versatility to play on the edge a little bit as well, even if it won’t be his primary position. He’s 270 pounds, runs well, and could be a major weapon as a blitzer up the B gap.
We know the Steelers have done their homework on him, too. During his Pro Day press conference, Collins confirmed he’s talked to the whole scouting staff and is a big fan of Mike Tomlin.
“I’ve spoken with the Steelers. I’ve spoken with the whole staff. I love Coach Tomlin. Great dude. Great energy. Great personality. It was awesome meeting all of them. I really feel blessed. That’s when it comes most surreal. Whenever you’re sitting with guys you watched on TV, coaching all these high-level athletes, and they’re giving you the time of day to talk to you for about an hour-and-a-half over Zoom meeting with how your life was and what you know about football. So that’s something I’m really grateful for.”
But there are some signs pointing against Collins being the pick. Most notably, the lack of Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert at his Pro Day. Yes, Tulsa is a smaller school, but their Pro Day workout came at the end of the circuit. There wasn’t any scheduling conflict that would’ve prevented either from attending. At Tulsa, the Steelers sent two representatives: Area scout Kelvin Fisher and assistant OLBs coach Denzel Martin. So not even ILBs coach Jerry Olsavsky made the trip, like he did to see Missouri’s Nick Bolton and Purdue’s Derrick Barnes.
The Steelers also haven’t drafted a non-Power 5 player in the first or second round since 2004, when they took Ben Roethlisberger (Miami OH) and Ricardo Colclough (Tusculum) with their top two picks. Since then, it’s been all Power 5.
If the board breaks a certain way, it’s possible Collins is the pick. Those odds aren’t zero. But he’s not the favorite. The Steelers’ need to improve their offense and become a more physical unit is likely to win out. But if Collins was the pick, it’d be a perfect fit.