So much of the 2021 draft process was unusual. The college football season was abridged and in-person scouting was limited. There was no NFL Combine. Pro Days were held but restricted both in movement (no Pro Day dinners, little coach-player interaction) and attendance (max of three personnel members per team).
About the only true constant was the 2021 Senior Bowl. Looking back on the draft, Kevin Colbert believes that week in Mobile was invaluable.
Colbert joined Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan on Sirius Radio to talk about his time in Mobile.
“Give Jim Nagy and his Senior Bowl crew some credit,” Colbert told the show. “That game was extremely valuable in this process. Our scouting was curtailed due to the COVID in the fall. So we didn’t get to see as many players live as we would in a traditional year. But to have them all down there in Mobile, it was very beneficial. And then to be able to do the interviews. I believe we did 128 interviews in four nights because Jim had a constructed in a very safe environment. All the teams were there and got to interview those players. It was very valuable.”
The Senior Bowl was the best opportunity for face-to-face conversations with prospects even if those were still limited. For Colbert and Mike Tomlin, two old-school talent evaluators, that type of interaction is critical.
Four of the Steelers’ nine draft picks and a majority of the seniors attended Mobile. First round pick Najee Harris briefly practiced but didn’t play due to an ankle injury but was available for interviews. Fourth round pick Dan Moore Jr., sixth rounder Quincy Roche, and seventh rounder Tre Norwood all went to this year’s Senior Bowl, too. Colbert said Norwood had a good week in Mobile, both on the practice field and during interviews, giving the team extra comfort in drafting him.
Colbert’s comments have been echoed by teams around the league. Other All-Star games were cancelled, like the NFLPA Game and the East-West Shrine Game. Though other smaller All-Star games and events like the Hula Bowl and College Gridiron Showcase took place, the Senior Bowl was this year’s marquee event. And it proved to once again be vital to Pittsburgh’s evaluation process.