Our 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers pre-draft tracker is quickly filling up with two-thirds of the team’s 30 visits known. Yesterday, the team had three more players visit in Maryland CB Deonte Banks, NC State OG Chandler Zavala, and NC State DB Tanner Ingle.
Check out our always-updating Steelers’ pre-draft tracker at the link for the list of 20 names that we know so far. In the thick of draft season, I’ve been asked a couple times about the correlation between pre-draft visitors and the Steelers’ actual draft picks. While knowing there is partially a new regime at the top, with Omar Khan replacing Kevin Colbert, it’s still worth looking at the team’s recent history and the number of players they drafted from that Top 30.
We’ll look back at the last five available draft classes. Due to the pandemic, there’s no data for 2020 or 2021 so our info will focus on 2016 through 2019 and the 2022 draft seasons.
|Year||Total Known Visits||Visitors Drafted||Draft Names|
That’s 11 picks out of 122 known visits, or 9.0%. It sounds like a small number but obviously, the team is always going to have well more visitors than potential draft picks. No one’s batting average is going to be 50% and while I can’t compare this to other teams, 9% is nothing to sneeze at.
Looking at the numbers, the Steelers have selected at least two pre-draft visitors in four of the five years, 2018 being the only exception when they took one. The causation here is obvious. Pittsburgh doesn’t play games and brings in players it truly has interest in. Perhaps ones that have some medical or other concerns that need more discussion or because the team couldn’t send Mike Tomlin/the GM or a positional coach to their Pro Day workout.
Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr. is a good example of that. Busy at the NFL Owners Meetings, Tomlin couldn’t attend the Nittany Lions’ Pro Day so Porter came in for a visit instead (and for the record, Porter is local and doesn’t actually count against the team’s Top 30). There is also the case of NC State’s Chandler Zavala, a Combine snub whom the team couldn’t watch or meet with at Indy. So after sending OL Coach Pat Meyer to the Wolfpack’s Pro Day and evidently liking what he saw, Zavala is coming in for a visit.
The takeaway for those who care about making their Steelers’ mock drafts as accurate as possible: include at least two pre-draft visitors among the team’s seven picks. Who those names could be is more up for debate. For what it’s worth, eight of the team’s 11 pre-draft visitors were selected in the third round or later. Sean Davis, Diontae Johnson, and Justin Layne are the exceptions with Davis a second-round pick and Johnson/Layne third-round selections. None of the team’s visitors became Pittsburgh’s first-round selection. First-round picks come from where Tomlin, and in this case, Omar Khan attended. Positional coaches heavily influence Day Two Picks and pre-draft visitors influence the third round and beyond.