Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin are old-school. They value the hands-on experience of the pre-draft process. Meeting players, taking them to whatever local hole-in-the-wall is a good place to grab a bite to eat. Getting to know the family, looking the prospect in the eye. All that good stuff. But the pandemic was prevented that from happening the last two draft cycles. Though Pro Days were conducted in 2021, there were no dinners. No large gatherings, no getting to meet the folks.
The one upside to the new rules is the Steelers had the chance to talk to and meet a lot more people. According to Kevin Colbert in his Monday pre-draft press conference, the team held Zoom calls with over 100 prospects.
“We couldn’t have a meeting with them during that Pro Day setting,” Colbert said. “So we had to do all of that via Zoom. Coach and I did over a hundred Zoom calls. Quite honestly, we’re comfortable with the results because we actually got to spend a little more time with them. And we feel good about that information.”
Here’s the list of players we know the team had Zoom calls with Tomlin and/or Colbert.
Travis Etienne/RB, Clemson
Anthony Schwartz/WR, Auburn
Trevon Moehrig/S, TCU
Garret Wallow/LB, TCU
Nick Bolton/LB, Missouri
Elerson Smith/EDGE, Northern Iowa
Osa Odighizuwa/DL, UCLA
Pat Freiermuth/TE, Penn State
D’Wayne Eskridge/WR, Western Michigan
Divine Deablo/LB-S, Virginia Tech
Christian Darrisaw/OT, Virginia Tech
Caleb Farley/CB, Virginia Tech
Jaelan Phillips/EDGE, Miami (FL)
Daelin Hayes/EDGE, Notre Dame
Baron Browning/LB, Ohio State
Asante Samuel Jr./CB, Florida State
Brandon Kennedy/C, Tennessee
Jamie Newman/QB, Wake Forest
Kyle Trask/QB, Florida
Zaven Collins/LB, Tulsa
Jermar Jefferson/RB, Oregon State
Najee Harris/RB, Alabama
Jack Anderson/OL, Texas Tech
That represents only a fraction of the 100+ Colbert’s referring to. These Zoom calls did make it easier on everyone. No travel required and the team could do more in one day than they could with in-person events. At Pro Days, they’d sometimes take multiple players out to dinner or bring in their allotted 30 to the team facility. But the virtual nature allowed things to flow much smoother. But Colbert lamented the inability to get to meet these players face-to-face, something the team has always held in high regards.
“Our interaction with them was limited though. We could not take them out to dinner the night before. We couldn’t say Hi to their parents. We couldn’t have a meeting with them during that pro day setting… just like we mentioned, just seeing you folks in-person, it’s different. You can read my eyes, you can read coach’s eyes when I’m answering a question. It’s not the same when you’re doing it via Zoom. It is what it is. We think we’re in good shape.”
That problem isn’t unique just to the Steelers. It’s one the entire league is dealing with. And Pittsburgh made the best of their situation last year. Even without a first round pick, they put together an impressive draft class highlighted by WR Chase Claypool, OLB Alex Highsmith, and OG Kevin Dotson. All three players are expected to start this season. This draft may be even tougher, but the Steelers aren’t ones to make excuses.