Kevin Colbert’s spoken plenty over the last week about the 2021 NFL Draft and his plans and expectations for the upcoming season. But he’s dropped a couple nuggets about his overall philosophy, too, that I’ve found interesting.
Though prohibited the last two years by the pandemic, some teams conduct pre-draft workouts with players. It’s a chance for an individual look at a player going through drills. But you’ve never heard the Steelers doing it. That’s because they never have. Speaking with Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio earlier this week, Colbert said the organization doesn’t see the value.
Florio asked Colbert if the lack of private workouts made the draft more difficult on the Steelers.
“We don’t subscribe to the private workouts,” Colbert responded. “In our opinion, if a player participates in the Combine and he goes to his Pro Day and participates, that’s enough for us. If we can’t figure it out from those two exposures, we’re probably not good enough at what we do. So we’ve never used the private workouts and we never will either.”
Private workouts with prospects aren’t common, but they do happen. For example, Patrick Mahomes conducted several of them during his pre-draft process. And in this 2014 article, former GM Greg Gabriel said he liked to use them to identify hidden gems on Day 3.
“I found private workouts to be very useful for potential later-round picks. Much like the workout of a premium-round guy, a later-round guy’s session can be helpful in making a final decision.”
But private workouts have their own risk and come under scrutiny. Mainly, the injury risk. In 2018, Wisconsin CB Nick Nelson suffered a torn meniscus when working out for the Detroit Lions. Thankfully, it didn’t hurt his draft stock too much, still going in the fourth round, but it set him back. Some top prospects like Christian McCaffrey declined private workouts during their pre-draft processes.
More teams should subscribe to the Steelers’ theory. With years of game tape, a Combine (sans this year), and Pro Days, there’s more than enough information to get on a player. Not to mention Zoom Calls and/or private visits where players come to the facility, meet coaches, and can still be put on the board to test their football IQ. As long as Colbert is in charge, though that may not be for too much longer, the Steelers won’t hold any private workouts.