This isn’t a negative or positive comment. It just is. Of all the Kevin Colbert drafts, his final one is the most Kevin Colbert-y.
Under his tenure, Colbert’s drafts have been pretty predictable. But 2022 took the cake. About the only name the elicited a mild surprise was the fourth round selection of WR Calvin Austin III, a quality pick and lone player who didn’t have clear and obvious pre-draft ties to the team.
All the smoke pointed to the team taking a quarterback at the top of the class. Determining who was tougher to do, but the ultimate choice of Kenny Pickett was a logical one. The literal quarterback next door, Colbert and the Steelers were more comfortable with him than anyone else.
Second-round WR George Pickens checks the “positional Pro Day” box after WRs Coach Frisman Jackson put Pickens through the paces at his Bulldogs’ Pro Day. With a clean bill of health, Pittsburgh grabbed him mid-way through the second round, snagging a first-round talent who fell largely due to the injury. Ditto with third-rounder DL DeMarvin Leal. Karl Dunbar was at his Pro Day, the only one we saw him attend, and he turned into the 84th overall pick.
Austin was the “wild card” of the bunch. The rest? As chalk as chalk gets. Connor Heyward in the sixth round, the free Bingo space on the Steelers’ mock draft card. LB Mark Robinson and QB Chris Oladokun with the team’s final pair of seventh-round picks, both brought in for pre-draft visits, with Tomlin/Colbert attending the Ole Miss Pro Day and several key personnel members heading up to South Dakota for Oladokun’s workout.
In most Colbert drafts, there’s always signs to look for. Tomlin/Colbert’s Pro Day schedule for first-round picks, positional coaches on Day 2, pre-draft visitors for the rest. But usually there’s a curveball tossed in there. In 2021, the trade up for Isaiahh Loudermilk was unexpected, while Quincy Roche and Tre Norwood were largely off the team’s visible radar. 2020 was difficult to judge due to the pandemic and lack of a first-round pick, making Pittsburgh’s interest much harder to gauge. Diontae Johnson wasn’t a household name mocked in 2019, and Day 3 picks like Sutton Smith, Ulysees Gilbert III, and Derwin Gray were wild cards.
But 2022? It was as cleanly as any. No curveballs. Just Colbert pumping 85 mph fastballs down the middle, ready to be hit off the tee.
Does that mean this draft will be a success or failure? Impossible to know. Being predictable isn’t inherently good or bad. Pittsburgh just made who they wanted and liked known and easy to map out. My final Steelers’ mock draft had just one pick mocked correctly, Oladokun in the seventh round (though I predicted they would draft two QBs), but it also had three selections in my “others considered” list, and that’s without me including the layup that Heyward was, which felt just too on the nose for Pittsburgh. Shame on me for that oversight.
Enjoy it, too. Because we might not see it again. With Colbert stepping down and a new GM stepping in, these “rules” might not be as followed going forward. Certainly not if the team makes an outside hire. Tomlin is still here, of course, but the draft might not ever be this clean, easy, and predictable as it was in Colbert’s final swing.