The pre-draft process during any year is an incredibly complex matter for all 32 teams. Especially when it comes to finding out proper medical information needed for all players, particularly those dealing with bigger than normal red flags. The fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic dating back to last February has made getting proper medical evaluations done on players extremely tough this offseason due to there not being a normal scouting combine. On Monday, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert outlined the medical evaluation process, as NFL teams know it right now, as part of the pre-draft process.
“As I mentioned, John Norwig [Steelers Head Athletic Trainer] and his staff did a great job in doing this, but I forgot to mention Jeff Foster, who’s the Executive Director of the National Invitational Combine,” Colbert said. “It was a tremendous amount of work. First off, we didn’t know if we would have the combine in the format that it was presented this year. We wanted more; we weren’t able to do it. Again, trying to follow the protocols and make it a safe adventure. So, we did basically remote physicals for the entire 328 players. Beyond that we were able to bring 100 to Indianapolis based on our ratings based upon how we all voted for those players as 32 teams. And then we went beyond that even further and we brought in 42 additional players to the Combine that we felt were the next group that had some medical issues that needed to be looked at.
“So, we only got our hands on really roughly 142, I think they may have gotten to 150 where our doctors, again, a smaller group of doctors were able to actually give them physicals. The remainder of it, it’s all remote and it was done in different parts of the country. So, we have our fingers crossed that we will have as good of information as we can, but it was a huge process for Jeff Foster and his folks at the National Invitation Combine to formulate. Again, our doctors, our trainers had to work within all those different restrictions and do the best we can. So, our fingers are crossed that we will have the proper medical information.”
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was also asked about his thoughts on the pre-draft medical evaluation process on Monday, and if he has less confidence in it than he did prior to COVID-19 changing how things are done.
“Much like in the coaching ranks and we had to use our relationships to gather information and have a certain level of trust in those relationships, it’s the same from a medical standpoint,” Tomlin said Monday. “You know, our training staff, the medical professionals have relationships around the country and had to lean on those relationships like I’m sure medical professionals in other organizations did and we trust them. We trust them, we trust their expertise, we trust their relationships and the people that they trust. And I think, you know, that’s one of the things that the circumstances force you to do is rely on the expertise and the connections and the relationships of those around you. And so, it’s just a component of dealing with what we’ve continued to deal with throughout this.”
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN on Monday, NFL teams are struggling to get accurate medical information on prospects due to absence of this year‘s scouting combine. He reports that even though there were medical exams in Indianapolis given to 150 players in April, teams are not pleased. He goes on to report that there’ll be last-minute decisions made by NFL teams based off medical info still trickling in.
Why is all this important and a huge topic of conversation when it comes to the Steelers and the 2021 NFL Draft? Possibly because Alabama center Landon Dickerson could be in play be selected by the Steelers in the first or second round this coming week. Because of several injuries that Dickerson sustained during his college career, his pre-draft medicals are going to be a huge part of this year’s pre-draft process for not only the Steelers, but a lot of teams, because of Dickerson being viewed as a potential first or second round prospect.
Dickerson is currently coming off a torn ACL that he sustained during the SEC championship game. It’s the second time he’s suffered such an injury. Had Dickerson entered the pre-draft process without all the medical red flags that surround him, he more than likely would be a slam-dunk, first round selection. That said, the pre-draft medical reports on Dickerson that have supposedly leaked to date haven’t been favorable.
Will we hear more about the Steelers’ 2021 pre-draft medical process in the coming weeks? Only if the Steelers select a player such as Dickerson.