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Mike Tomlin Acknowledges ‘Intangible Quality’ In Accumulation Of Brothers, But ‘They’re Here On Their Own Merits’

In case you haven’t heard by now, the Pittsburgh Steelers have made it something of an unintentional habit in recent years to acquire brothers. Coming out of the 2022 NFL Draft, they now have four sets of siblings on their offseason roster—and for the first time, they were the team to draft or originally acquire both brothers, even if significantly apart.

That would be the Heywards, with big brother Cameron Heyward their 2011 first-round draft pick. He has since become a perennial All-Pro and one of the best defenders in the league. The Steelers just drafted his younger brother, H-back Connor Heyward, in the sixth round this past weekend.

In addition to the Heywards, they also have T.J. and Derek Watt, Carlos and Khalil Davis, and Terrell and Trey Edmunds. T.J. and Terrell were also former first-round draft picks of theirs, while Carlos was a seventh-round pick in 2020. So is this all just a coincidence?

You know, we value the intangible quality, and when you’re doing business with one, it probably gives you an indication about the intangible quality of the other”, head coach Mike Tomlin admitted after the draft, speaking of learning traits of one player through his sibling.

“We’re all continually trying to measure that which we cannot, and that probably is what drives us toward the brother game”, he went on. “But the guys that we do business with, they’re here on their own merits and their own capabilities. In some instances, they just happen to be brothers”.

Still, the reality is that some of these pairs may well be split up this year. Trey Edmunds is always a risk to be let go, and the addition of Connor Heyward won’t make it any easier for him to hold on to even a practice squad spot. Both Carlos and Khalil Davis could potentially be competing for a spot on the practice squad if both don’t stick. Derek Watt should be safe through this year, but he’ll be a free agent in 2023—with Connor potentially his replacement.

Tomlin also spoke specifically about the decision to draft Connor Heyward in relation to the discussion about adding brothers. “Connor’s resume speaks for itself”, he said, calling him a very talented player that they viewed as being an offensive contributor in addition to special teams. “He was very worthy of that consideration, and I didn’t want to water that down in any way by including big brother”.

In the cases of the Heywards and Edmundses, they also had fathers who were NFL players, and of course the Watts have their older brother, J.J., as the sort of proof of concept. He was a three-time Defensive Player of the Year by the time the Steelers drafted T.J., who just claimed his first DPOY Award, in the first round in 2017.

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