It’s no secret that Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Omar Khan are among the most active among league personnel in traveling to pre-draft events, such as the NFL Combine and Pro Days. While numerous executives, including the entire Los Angeles Rams front office and coaching staff and Patriots Head Coach/de-facto General Manager Bill Belichick, skipped the Combine this year, the Steelers had their usual presence. Khan and Tomlin have since been traveling the country attending various pro days. Speaking to the media at the coaches’ breakfast at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix, Tomlin explained that learning more about a player personally and building relationships is why he and Khan are so active in the pre-draft circuit.
“That’s why Omar and myself, we travel as much as we do this time of year. Pro Days and so forth, Senior Bowl, Combine. I know some of those things are less in vogue now by our peers,but we’re just really interested in the things that you can’t see on tape. Those are the intangible qualities, the relationship things, the things that really make teams to go. We’re pretty intentional about unearthing as much information in those areas as we can,” Tomlin said via video posted to Steelers.com.
The Steelers have always placed a premium on high-character players, so getting to know guys and learning about them first-hand is important for the organization. Besides demonstrating interest, it’s one of the big reasons Tomlin takes certain players out to dinner before their Pro Days. While it helps to know a player before you draft him, knowing his character and personality can also help you assess him later if a certain player becomes a free agent. It also helps with relationship-building, and guys knowing what Tomlin and Khan are like as humans in addition to them as football people can help make Pittsburgh a more attractive destination down the line.
As Tomlin said, it’s the relationship and intangibles that make a team go. A team can have as much talent in the world, but if the locker room is falling apart and guys don’t get along, then they aren’t going to win football games and be a successful team. You need a strong backbone with leaders and the right mix of team chemistry in the locker room in addition to talent. Getting to know players personally by meeting them face-to-face at various pre-draft events is supremely important for the Steelers. It’s one of the things that help separate them from other organizations that may not place as much of a premium on the intangible aspects of football.
The value the Steelers place on a player as a person, as well as a football player, is why they’re consistently a winning football team. There’s no doubt that whoever Pittsburgh drafts this year will come properly vetted and with the stamp of approval from Tomlin and Khan in both aspects.