Former Steelers’ Front Office Member Says NFL Rarely Tries To Hire Away Pittsburgh Scouts

No front office in football has experienced as much stability as the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s not just Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin either. Top to bottom, their group hasn’t changed much over the years. Of the team’s scouting coordinators and area scouts, every single one of them has been with the Steelers for at least five years.

I talked about this in an offseason article several years ago. Looking back on and updating the list, none of the names have changed. Here’s how long each member has been with the team entering the 2021 season.

Phil Kreidler/College Scouting Coordinator: Entering 31st season
Brandon Hunt/Pro Scouting Coordinator: Entering 12th Season
Mark Gorscak/College Area Scout: Entering 27th Season
Bruce McNorton Jr./College Area Scout: Entering 22nd season
Dan Rooney Jr./Player Personnel Coordinator + Southeast Scout: Entering 21st season
Dave Petett/College Scout: Entering 18th season
Dan Colbert/Northeast + Atlantic College Scout: Entering 11th season
Mike Butler/Area Scout: Entering 10th season
Chidi Iwuoma/Area Scout: Entering 10th season
Mark Bruener/West Area Scout: Entering 10th season
Rick Reiprish/Senior Assistant to College Scouting: Entering 7th season

The team has hired a couple lower-level members, intern-turned-BLESTO Scout Dennis MacInnis, and a couple of new analysts, Jay Whitmire and Tosin Kazeem. Almost no one on staff has left, either.

Such a model of consistency does beg the question — why doesn’t the NFL poach these names away? Pittsburgh’s been one of the top-drafting teams over the last 20 years. Front office minutia doesn’t always make the paper but there’s hardly any reports of these guys interviewing for better jobs elsewhere.

Former Steelers’ Pro Personnel Coordinator Doug Whaley did get that prestige job elsewhere, named Director of Pro Personnel of the Buffalo Bills in 2010 before being elevated to GM three years later. In a recent presentation, Whaley offered one explanation for why Steelers’ front office members are rarely on the move. Inside The League’s Neil Stratton wrote about what Whaley said.

“Pittsburgh is a model franchise, yet Doug is one of the team’s few former executives who got a shot to run another team. “Everybody (in the league) believes none of them will leave, so no one gets approached . . . If you talked to (Steelers scouts and executives), you could ask them. They would entertain it. Do (the Steelers) pay? They’re not the top-paying club in the industry. Now, they treat you well, but I remember Mr. Rooney always saying, ‘we’re not the highest, we’re not the lowest, but we’re on the high side of fair.’ But again, you know, you’re going to win. They treat you right. But I’m telling you, nobody. And I talked to some of the scouts and was like, ‘what is it out there in the league that people don’t come and ask us?’ No one knocks on the door. The only other thing that I could say is maybe the owners are like, ‘hey, we respect the Rooneys so much that we won’t raid their staff.’” 

Really interesting commentary. According to Whaley, front office members aren’t often even approached about a job opening because teams don’t think the Steelers’ guys will even leave. That’s probably not true, but perception is reality. He also mentions guys being treated well in Pittsburgh, not having an incentive to leave, along with being in the thick of the playoff race every year. Just like it does on the field, winning keeps morale high in the front office.

At the end, Whaley mentions the league’s respect for the Rooney family that dissuades them from poaching Pittsburgh’s front office. To be fair, the Steelers have lost or almost lost higher-ups before. Samir Suleiman was hired away by former Steelers’ shareholder David Tepper and the Carolina Panthers. Omar Khan’s name has popped up for GM jobs over the years and he nearly won the Texans’ job this offseason.

This is all “inside baseball” stuff most fans understandably don’t care about. But the league’s apparent reluctance has been to the benefit of the team, creating consistency and stability that exists almost nowhere else in professional sports, let alone the NFL.

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