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Family Affair: Why the Steelers Love NFL Bloodlines




The Pittsburgh Steelers sure love their NFL bloodlines. Whether its the younger brother of an NFL player or the son of an NFL player, you can guarantee that the Steelers will be interested if a player with a familiar NFL last name comes up on the draft board.

From Terrell and Trey Edmunds to Devin Bush Jr., Cam and Connor Heyward, T.J. and Derek Watt, Patrick Peterson and more, the Steelers have shown over and over again a fondness for players familiar to the NFL.

But why is that? 

Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked that very question at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix last week.

Professional football is less of a mystery for them,” Tomlin said. “It’s less of a dream for them. When someone in your close proximity is living that out, be it an older sibling or a parent, you see it. You know what it’s about. You understand it. There’s less dreaming about it and more planning and taking action to create that end result and I just think that creates a higher potential floor and makes the acquisition less mystical.”

When it comes to the 2023 NFL Draft, the obvious bloodline candidate is Penn State cornerback Joey Porter, Jr., the son of the former Steelers linebacker and coach that is likely one of the top options for the Steelers at pick N0. 17.

But Porter isn’t the only one in this year’s draft class with a familiar last name — even to the Steelers.

Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig is the younger brother of new Steelers guard Nate Herbig, and also represents both a position of need and alignment with the Steelers draft capital. The younger Herbig is likely a day two pick, and his big brother has already started the campaign.

“I already came in the building screaming it,” Nate Herbig said. “Come on, let’s get him here. Nick Herbig, stud. Absolute stud. I should be his agent.”

There are more. Oregon State tight end Luke Musgrave’s father Bill played for the 49ers and Broncos before starting a long career as an NFL assistant coach. He’s currently the Cleveland Browns senior offensive assistant.

Tennessee wide receiver Cedric Tillman is the son of the former Denver Broncos wide receiver that had the same name. TCU cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson is the nephew of Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson. LSU edge rusher B.J. Ojulari is the brother of Giants outside linebacker Azeez. Northwestern tackle Peter Skoronski is the grandson of a five-time NFL champion with the Green Bay Packers.

With so many options, the Steelers preference for players with NFL bloodlines doesn’t really tip their selections in any significant way, but it will be a surprise if they make their seven picks later this month without calling the name of at least one player from the NFL family.