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Steelers Have Interacted With More Prospects Than Ever Before Under Tomlin, Coach Says, Citing Post-COVID Lessons Learned

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been in contact with so many prospects during this pre-draft period that they don’t even have a final count on the number. It’s likely to be in the realm of a couple hundred, however, given their descriptions of the many avenues at their disposal they used to gather information this year.

Head coach Tomlin spoke about it somewhat at length yesterday during a press-draft press conference with general manager Omar Khan, crediting the lessons that they learned during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and being able to marry those concepts with their standard tools they have been able to utilize to a greater extent in 2023.

Now that we’re on the other side of COVID, it’s like almost being able to couple those techniques with some traditional ones”, he said, via the team’s website. “It’s good to get back on the Pro Day circuit and see these guys in their college environments and the information that you get from that”.

Tomlin talked about doing more extensive medical checks on prospects whom they might not had the opportunity to have a first-hand interaction with and continuing to make extensive use of their allotted time on Zoom meetings to expand their reach. “It just feels really good in this post-COVID world to use some of those tools along with traditional ones in an effort to have a high floor of readiness”, he said. “We took every opportunity that was at our disposal to beat the bushes and engage with these guys”.

That includes using their 30 allotted pre-draft visits, as well as numerous local visits (many surely unreported), and their maximum level of exposure during every other tentpole event of the process, such as the 45 formal meetings at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“We have turned some stones over, I’ll tell you that. I’m telling you, we’ve touched more guys in this process than any process that I’ve been a part of”, Tomlin said. “It’s just, again, using the COVID-related tools coupled with the normal back-to-business approaches that we’ve had, and it’s just providing a broader net for us”.

And he stressed that that work is not done, even now, days before the draft. They are still permitted at this point to reach out to players via Zoom, something that began as a necessity in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the pre-draft process to a screeching halt.

There were no Pro Days that year, and no pre-draft visitors. There was no Combine the year after that. The 2023 pre-draft process is the most unencumbered, unburdened one for the NFL since before COVID, so it’s no surprise, with the new tools in the repertoire added to the process since then, that they’ve been able to cast that wider net Tomlin speaks of.

How that translates during the draft remains to be seen. One would hope that it will assist the Steelers in hitting on some later picks, though that will be harder to do with no selections in the fifth and sixth rounds, as of now. But that may only further entice them to trade down from 32 in the second round to add more picks later on, to better take advantage of their research.

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