Pittsburgh doesn’t travel west often but it sent a high-ranking member of their organization to USC’s Pro Day Tuesday. And with good reason: the Trojans having several solid prospects preparing for the 2023 NFL Draft. For the Steelers, Director of Player Scouting Mark Sadowski attended the workout, one of the team’s recent hires in 2022. That’s certainly something of note but if history continues to ring true, it means a guy like WR Jordan Addison won’t be the Steelers’ choice at #17.
Today is a good reminder of the history lesson. Since 2010, every single one of the Steelers’ first round picks has had Mike Tomlin and/or Kevin Colbert personally attend their Pro Day. The last exception, as far as we can tell, was Missouri DE Ziggy Hood. There’s no evidence either were at that Tigers’ workout in 2009 – believe me, we’ve searched high and low – and perhaps his uninspiring selection caused the team to change course. To see the value in watching a player in person as opposed to just on tape. Since, we know for a fact every first-round pick, from Maurkice Pouncey in 2010 to Kenny Pickett last season, Tomlin or Colbert – often both – were there. Even the one time the team went out west and when Stanford OG David DeCastro fell in 2012, the Steelers were there. It’s virtually the only time Tomlin’s crossed the Mississippi and it turned out to be the Steelers’ pick.
Tuesday, Tomlin and Omar Khan didn’t again make that trek. Instead, they were finishing up their Grand Iowa Tour, visiting the Cyclones yesterday after a Monday stay to watch the Hawkeyes. Today, they’re in Columbus for Ohio State’s workout.
Yes, it is a new GM regime with Khan and assistant Andy Weidl and our “Blue’s Clues” don’t feel as ironclad as they did under Colbert. Pittsburgh’s first move in free agency was signing the going-on 33-year-old CB Patrick Peterson, an age Colbert almost never touched in free agency. But Khan has taken a strikingly similar Pro Day approach as Colbert, hot on the trail, and while Weidl is new, we know he won’t actually have a final say in who the Steelers select.
It’s possible Addison falls out of the first round and to Pittsburgh at #32. If so, throw that history out the window and Addison comes into play. Doesn’t mean the team will take him — they seem committed to beefing up the trenches and adding a corner — but the Pro Day history becomes moot.
Now, who the Steelers did send still matters. That was Sadowski, one of Khan’s first hires after replacing Colbert. As we’ve told the story before, the two go way back to their days at Tulane and Khan helped get Sadkowski his first NFL job with the New Orleans Saints. There’s a long history and friendship there and Sadowski has a high-ranking position in the front office.
At the Combine, Khan noted that Sadowski will assist Weidl in putting together the draft board, meaning his Pro Day trips and his word carries more weight than a typical area scout. And the Trojans have several other interesting prospects. EDGE rusher Tuli Tuipulotu is coming in for a pre-draft visit while OG Andrew Vorhees has been one of my guys (unfortunately tearing his ACL at the Combine) while CB Mehki Blackmon is an underrated man cover corner. All names to keep an eye on throughout the draft. It’s also worth noting the Pro Day took place in a downpour and without a proper indoor facility, the workout was held outside. It was slick and dreary so take the 40 times and testing numbers with a grain of salt given the conditions.
But Addison? In the first round? The history, which hasn’t steered us wrong before, says he’s not the guy. I suspect that isn’t breaking big news or many hearts but the USC Pro Day is a good reminder to revisit what’s been the biggest indicator of who the team’s first round target is.
And just as importantly, who it isn’t.