The Pittsburgh Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin have not been averse to hiring individuals who have a tendency to shoot from the hip. They might find cause to rein them in from time to time, but the level of candidness that we have gotten from people like Keith Butler over the years is something that would not be tolerated in many other organizations.
Special teams coordinator Danny Smith is very much in that same mindset, if not more so, and he recently made an interesting—if not wholly unsurprising—comment about how the team views its draft picks when discussing second-year punter Pressley Harvin III, drafted in the seventh round in 2021.
“He’s a draft choice, all of them get good shots”, he told reporters earlier this month, courtesy of Andrew Limberg writing for 93.7 The Fan. “If I get drafted, I want to get drafted in Pittsburgh”, he added, because he knows the players the Steelers draft are afforded every opportunity to succeed—generally.
“I’m just speaking the truth, some other teams ain’t like that”, he went on. “I’m not saying that’s good or bad but if you get drafted in Pittsburgh, PA you’re expected to make it and they’re going to give you every opportunity to get that”.
Now, the draft pick doesn’t always get favored. Not even in Danny Smith’s room. The year that Greg Warren, their longtime veteran long snapper, retired due to injury, they drafted Colin Holba in the sixth round because he had the type of size at the position that they covet and is hard to find.
But they also picked up Kameron Canaday off the street, who started three games the year prior but was cut due to performance for another team. Everybody all along just assumed that Holba would win the job. It wasn’t really even covered in the media as a competition. And then Canaday was on the opening day roster.
Of course, it’s not unreasonable for a team to want to give its draft picks every opportunity to succeed. They selected those players because they believed that they would succeed, so it makes sense that you would give extra leeway to such a player if you feel they will blossom in year two or three even if they are not currently at the stage of development they should be.
It should go without saying that this isn’t just about specialists, but about all draft picks. And yet, interestingly, the Steelers have never had an entire draft class make a 53-man roster, which is not all that uncommon around the rest of the league.