Steelers Cover Their Bases With Latest Scouting Hires

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ news cycle has been dominated by Mason Rudolph’s return, Mitch Trubisky’s extension, and filling out the rest of their 90-man roster. But I was most excited by one thing: their new scouting staff.

You guys know I love to play the scout name-game and I got my fill Wednesday with the names of two men reportedly being added to Pittsburgh’s front office. Area scouts Jim Ward and Zack Crockett are expected to join the team in the near future and be part of the 2023-2024 scouting cycle.

While the Steelers made significant changes to their front office last year, the team is filling in the gaps of that turnover along with some of the changes exiting this year’s draft.

So where do Ward and Crockett slot in? And why they were hired? To understand that is to understand how area scouts work. Scouts are responsible for regions of the country. They don’t scout specific players or positions. Instead, they’re given a territory. For example, you might have a Northwest Scout, a Midwest Scout, a West Scout, a Southeast Scout, and they cover all the schools and prospects in that region. Of course, they’re far from the only ones who file reports on prospects. There are cross-checks from other scouts, reports from positional coaches, coordinators, head coaches, and GMs, but the area scout (and the BLESTO scout) gets the ball rolling. The area scouts play a critical role of getting boots on the ground during the season and are especially on the busy Pro Day circuit since Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan can only attend so many of those.

Ward will replace longtime scout Mark Gorscak, who is stepping down from his post after nearly 30 years with the Steelers. With that comes replacing Gorscak’s territory, which for 2022, was the Midwest. Schools like Purdue, Illinois, all the directional-Michigan schools (Central Michigan, East Michigan, etc.), Toledo, you get the idea. Hired away from Philadelphia, Ward has spent most of his scouting career covering the Midwest, meaning he should be the man who takes Gorscak’s territory. It was a switch for Gorscak himself, who covered the South for years, but it seems the Steelers moved him after hiring Chris Watts, who covers that territory. So Ward replaces Gorscak.

What about Crockett? To our knowledge, Gorscak is the only scout leaving his position. Crockett is replacing the territory left by senior scout Rick Reiprish, who moved on after the 2022 season, shortly following Khan’s hire. Reiprish covered the Southeast, all the Florida schools, into the Carolinas and into Georgia and Mississippi. Pittsburgh didn’t replace that territory with all their hires post-Khan being named GM. For 2023, they pieced that region together with a combination of Mark Sadowski, Phil Kreidler, and maybe a little bit of Dan Rooney Jr., though his area didn’t change much.

Crockett should have more defined control over the Southeast next year. That’s his background, scouting there for years before being let go by the Las Vegas Raiders in February, which is unusual timing for a scout. Those guys normally get moved on post-draft, right around this time of year. For Crockett, it’s in his roots, born in Florida and attending Florida State.

Regions are important because they create connections. Scouting isn’t just about the tape. It’s the old adage – who you know matters. Having relationships with the strength and conditioning coach, the head of security for a program, all the contacts who can provide a nugget of information about a player on and off the field matter to get the most complete picture possible. Because teams don’t draft prospects. They don’t draft a 40 time or a vertical jump. They draft people and you have to know the person you’re getting.

The inner workings of the Steelers’ scouts is a niche topic. But it’s become a pretty interesting one over the last two offseasons given the high amount of turnover there that comes with a new GM. For years, decades, Pittsburgh’s scouts were largely the same group of people; there was truly little turnover. But with Khan and Andy Weidl running the show, not to mention the fact that the Steelers’ longtime scouts are now reaching retirement age (who is next – Phil Kreidler?) things are changing. And changing quickly.

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