Even under a new GM in Omar Khan, all you had to do to nail your mock draft was pull up our list of Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2023 pre-draft visitors, have a vague understanding of team needs, and boom, you nailed it. While some teams put up smokescreens with draft picks that are hard to predict, the Steelers don’t play games. And there’s always been an intuitively strong correlation between Pittsburgh’s 30 pre-draft visitors and the players they select during draft weekend. Now, we can quantify it.
As charted by Daniel Salib, the Steelers had the second-highest percentage of players drafted (or signed as UDFAs) from their 30 pre-draft visit list at 31%. Only the Washington Commanders were higher, making up one-third of their rookie class.
Here’s the complete list.
It appears this list is just from 2023 and not an aggregate from over the years. But it’s still interesting info. My math is a bit different than his, four visits of the 14 drafted/UDFAs, but either way, it’s still an awfully high percentage.
While some teams like Pittsburgh, Washington, and Philadelphia, have a clear line between visits and picks, some teams run in the other direction. Three teams – the Los Angeles Chargers, New Orleans Saints, and Atlanta Falcons, have zero players drafted or signed of their pre-draft visitors.
In Pittsburgh, that would be unthinkable. According to our tracker, of which we know all 30 names, the Steelers’ first four picks were on that list: OT Broderick Jones, CB Joey Porter Jr. (a local visit), NT Keeanu Benton, and TE Darnell Washington. None of the Day Three picks or UDFAs came in but the interest at the top was notable. Arguably, it’s why the Steelers draft better than most teams. Avoiding smokescreens and not caring about “tells” allows them to learn as much as they can about the players they do like, making for a more effective and efficient pre-draft process.
While Pittsburgh has always had a strong correlation with its picks and visitors, this year was unusually strong. Having the team’s first-round selection in Jones come in for a visit is uncommon. Aside from Kenny Pickett, a local visit, the last Steelers’ first rounder to go to the team facility before the draft was Ryan Shazier in 2014.
Combine the visits with other clues like LBs Coach Aaron Curry watching Nick Herbig at his Wisconsin Pro Day and it made predicting the team’s draft picks easy to do. We’ll see if the Steelers follow that model going forward. Based on the history of their draft transparency, they will.