With the Steelers’ 2023 offseason underway following a disappointing season that came up just short of reaching the playoffs, it’s time to begin reloading, through the free agency process, through the draft, and perhaps even through trade.
This is now a young team on the offensive side of the ball, though one getting older on defense, and both sides could stand to be supplemented robustly, including in the trenches—either one. Changes have been made to the coaching staff, even if not all of the desired ones, as the roster continues to renew with the weeks ticking by.
These sorts of uncertainties are what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
Topic Statement: Mike Tomlin’s absence for Joey Porter Jr.’s Pro Day says nothing about the prospects of the team drafting him.
Explanation: Historically, the Steelers have long been well-represented at the Pro Days of their first-round draft picks, particularly with respect to head coach Mike Tomlin. Yet he was not on hand for Penn State’s Pro Day, where first-round cornerback prospect Joey Porter Jr. was working out. There are plausible reasons for him to have been elsewhere.
Tomlin can’t be everywhere at once. He only makes claims to make as many Pro Days as he reasonably can, and Penn State seems a more reasonable sacrifice than most due to it being a local school. And they have more inside intel about Joey Porter Jr. than any team, for obvious reasons.
He was at Alabama’s Pro Day the day before, and his son Dino worked out at Boston College. Notre Dame’s Pro Day was the same day. And he had his Competition Committee obligations to attend to as well.
It may break precedent if the Steelers end up drafting Porter with Tomlin not having been at his Pro Day, but they’ll likely bring him in for a local visit, and Tomlin would know him well. He grew up with Tomlin’s son and Tomlin and Porter’s dad attended their football games together. He has all the information he needs.
It might not mean a lot, but that doesn’t mean that it means nothing. Tomlin was at Pitt’s Pro Day last year even though they had all they needed to know about quarterback Kenny Pickett—of course, he wouldn’t have to travel far for that one.
And the thing is, it wasn’t just Tomlin. General manager Omar Khan wasn’t there. Neither was owner Art Rooney II. assistant general manager Andy Weidl and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin were the most notable members of their entourage to Pitt, which is a little lackluster for a local school with a first-round prospect.
Still, by and large, Pittsburgh hasn’t exactly been broadcasting any specific intentions of drafting a cornerback in the first round, which is where they would have to be to get Porter. If anything, their interest seems to be more along the offensive line. They may still end up drafting Porter all the same, but it’s possible that his absence is a small indication that they’re not zeroing their sights on him as so many in the national media seem to be portraying.