At least from the outside looking in, the Pittsburgh Steelers are not generally regarded as being among the more secretive organizations. It often seems as though their targets in the draft are obvious, especially in the first round, with owner Art Rooney II admitting a couple years ago that they were concerned their intention to draft running back Najee Harris was too well broadcast.
Yet head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters yesterday that he’s learned over the years to dabble in subterfuge here and there. Asked about the importance of tape evaluation and if poor tape would mean that he wouldn’t go meet a prospect, he said with a smile, “I may because you guys might be tracking my movements”.
The Steelers’ pre-draft movements tend to be reasonably well-documented, and nobody provides more of that documentation than we do through Dave Bryan and Alex Kozora. Those on the ground at each stop along the Pro Day circuit also often helpfully point out who from the Steelers are present.
Tomlin’s comment seems to be an acknowledgement of the Steelers’ awareness of how much attention is paid to his comings and goings. His absence from the Penn State Pro Day last week was talked about in connection to the Steelers’ potential interest in drafting cornerback Joey Porter Jr. in the first round. And he made it clear that there is some misdirection at times.
“I’ve honed it. It’s become more efficient, but it’s also become more intentional and thoughtful”, he said about how he goes about the pre-draft process. “Gamesmanship, if you will, along some of the discussions that we’re having here and laughing about, but also very true. It’s just important that we safeguard our intentions and our sensitive information in an effort to protect our ability to put together what it is we desire to put together”.
What exactly might that entail? Perhaps varying appearances on the Pro Day circuit, and things of that nature. As on the field, it’s important to self-scout and see where your patterns are and make use of tendency breakers if your concern is that your intentions will be predictable to others.
These things do happen in the league. New assistant general manager Andy Weidl is familiar with how the Philadelphia Eagles and general manager Howie Roseman work. If they have good reason to believe that a team in front of them is interested in a player they want, they will jump in front.
That seems to be what happened to Tomlin in his first season as head coach. Many assumed the Steelers would draft Aliquippa native Darrelle Revis in the first round, with the New York Jets trading ahead of Pittsburgh to land him instead. Perhaps he learned a little something from that.