If you’re reading this, congratulations! We’re nearly to one of the best days of the year: Draft day. The day where hopes of dreams of fans and players spark alike. For organizations like the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s an opportunity to change the direction of the franchise and align themselves back on track for the playoffs.
With the 20th overall selection in the draft, Pittsburgh has a few different options they could opt for. Perhaps a new cornerback to play opposite of Joe Haden? A fast linebacker with the first name Devin to play in black and gold? Or maybe even a brand new receiver for Ben Roethlisberger to throw to?
The options are endless, and thus is the speculation around who Pittsburgh will choose at no. 20 (if they choose to stay put, that is). From trading up into the top fifteen, to drafting a tight end in the first round, the rumor mill around the Steelers spins like a wind turbine, and will continue to do so even as the pick is being announced.
Thus, the idea of this piece. This isn’t your standard “Check out my mock draft” article, nor are the ideas bold enough to create a new font on Microsoft Word. However, the ideas in here aren’t for the following of the sheep. There are no obvious predictions listed below, mostly because no team in the draft hardly does the “obvious” choice we football fans think they will make.
May I present to you, five bold predictions for the Steelers in the upcoming draft:
The Steelers are NOT trading up in the first round: Again, this may not be bold to some. Yet perusing through the web and social media, there seems to be a bit of hope general manager Kevin Colbert will pick up the phone and make an aggressive move to trade up in the first round. The only two players that may potentially warrant a trade up will be the two inside linebackers that the entire league covets in Devin White (LSU) and Devin Bush (Michigan). White is heavily favored to be gone in the top six, and Bush may potentially be selected in the top twelve. Pittsburgh certainly won’t make a move to get a top corner, especially considering one of two should be available for them at number twenty. The ultimate giveaway Colbert won’t make a move? Free agency. The Steelers covered any huge holes (with duct tape according to some) they felt necessary so they didn’t feel desperate enough to give away draft capital.
Your favorite player won’t be drafted in round one: Steelers Nation has undeniably fell in love with a handful of players, one of which being Michigan linebacker Chase Winovich. Winovich, a high motor pass rusher, could potentially be the missing piece to return Pittsburgh to caliber levels only matching the team’s 2008 defense. The only problem? He simply isn’t projected to go in the first round, being projected as a reach for the Steelers at number twenty (Before you say anything, think about how you felt about Terrell Edmunds last season). Would he be a perfect fit for the Steelers in the second round? One hundred times over, yes. Yet him and other fan favorites such as Rock Ya-Sin, Clelin Ferrell, Nasir Adderley and Darnell Savage likely don’t fit the bill for the Steelers at pick twenty.
The Steelers will draft a running back… On day three: The need for Pittsburgh to add another body to their running back stable might be the worst kept secret around the Steelers right now. Pittsburgh held seven running backs in for pre-draft visits this year, including the likes of Miles Sanders (Penn State) and Damien Harris (Alabama). The health of James Conner concerns some in the organization, and Jaylen Samuels doesn’t possess the frame to handle a large amount of carries between the tackles. With no running backs brought in through free agency and a high amount of backs brought in for pre-draft visits, the question becomes “when” rather than “if” Pittsburgh turns to the draft to address the running back position. The only back projected to go in the first three rounds is Sanders, with all others holding lower round grades. Look for the Steelers on day three to make a move for a ball carrier.
Pittsburgh will select a wide receiver on day two: Noted in an article discussing Kevin Colbert’s draft history, Pittsburgh has drafted a wide receiver on day two (second/third round) in the last five of six years. Will that trend continue? With Antonio Brown gone and the Steelers needing depth outside the slot, it’s almost a given. The Steelers will have a favorable amount of options on day two, as receivers such as South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel and Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler are only two of many potential play-makers that may end up in black and gold. With another receiver added to the depth chart, the Steelers’ young receiving corps of JuJu Smith-Schuster/James Washington/Ryan Switzer and another talented WR drafted in 2019 could keep defensive secondaries on their heels for years to come.
The Steelers will trade up in two rounds: The Steelers possess ten picks for the first time since the 2010 NFL Draft, and currently hold multiple picks in the third round for the third straight season. A plethora of picks is a big cause for making moves and trading up, and will most likely be the case for Pittsburgh this year in the later parts of the draft, as six of ten picks are in the fourth round or lower. Day three could see the Steelers address the tight end position, add depth to the linebacker/offensive line groups, or even potentially add to their special teams unit, although only one special teams player (K/P/LS) has been drafted to Pittsburgh since 2010. Multiple picks in multiple rounds (3rd/6th rounds) are cause for movement, especially for a GM like Colbert that has shown interest in draft movement through the process.
NFL Releases Further Details of Altered Draft Process
After cancelling the in-person NFL Scouting Combine last week due to COVID-19 concerns, the league released further details of the significantly altered draft process in a memo to clubs Friday.
Teams are prohibited from timing, testing, interviewing or examining draft prospects at any location other than all-star games or the respective player’s pro day.
Clubs are also banned from hosting draft prospects for facilities visits, dinners, film sessions and private workouts. Violations of these rules would be subject to punishment in line with the NFL’s anti-tampering policy.
Further muddying the process, clubs will only be allowed to have a maximum of three individuals attend pro days. However, all times and measurements are said to be made available league-wide.
Lastly, the league also released further details and restrictions on the pre-draft interview process. While in-person interviews and visits will be prohibited, they can be conducted virtually or via telephone.
Clubs can schedule up to five video conferences or phone calls with a prospect, with each conversation limited to one hour. Virtual psychological tests will not count against the five interview limit.
Teams can begin conducting interviews with draft eligible underclassmen on Monday, Jan. 25.
Interviews with seniors can begin on Monday, Feb. 1.
NFL Cancels In-Person 2021 Scouting Combine in Indianapolis; Pro Days On
After weeks of rumors and speculation, the NFL has made it official, announcing in a memo to clubs Monday they are significant alterations to the 2021 Scouting Combine.
Annually held in Indianapolis, the league is scrapping in-person workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium, instead opting for pro days on college campuses. The NFL will coordinate with schools to ensure “consistency in testing and drills,” providing video of said workouts to all clubs.
Interviews and psychological testing of prospects normally executed at the physical combine will instead be conducted in an entirely virtual format.
As for medical evaluations, limited in-person exams will most likely be conducted over a three-day span in early April. While some evaluations will also be held virtually, an undetermined number of prospects will be invited to designated satellite locations for in-person exams. Each franchise will be permitted to dispatch a physician and athletic trainer to conduct the in-person portion.
Leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft in April, the league will work directly with clubs, schools and affiliated broadcast partners to ensure media availability with Combine invitees. The NFL intends to keep with tradition and make head coaches and general managers available to the media as well.
The altered Combine format was devised and overseen by a special committee of league and club officials, including NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills, Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill and Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert.
Further details regarding protocols and finalized dates will be released as the committee continues to meet and plan over the coming weeks.
Here’s the full memo on changes to the 2021 scouting combine: pic.twitter.com/e1KNcuaUTn
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 18, 2021
Report: NFL to Make Significant Changes to Combine Due to COVID-19
Major changes to the 2021 NFL Scouting Combine are expected amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a report by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, plans of hosting the combine as traditionally constructed are “dead” following a conference call between league officials Friday. It is becoming increasingly likely that the medical and performance-based portions of the event will be held separately.
A number of alternatives are being considered, including regionalized medical checks, standardized pro days and interviews conducting via Zoom.
With regards to the regional medicals, the NFL could set up shop and administer the examinations at hospital in states where a large number of players are conducting their workouts and preparation, such as Arizona, California, Florida and Texas.
The intent would be to limit travel for players, where as the team physicians conducting the examinations would likely have already received their vaccinations.
Other aspects of the medical process can be accomplished virtually, such as reviewing injury histories.
As for the pro days, NFL or individual team personnel would put players through drills at their respective schools, but standardize each workout to ensure prospects are going through the same exercises as they would in Indianapolis. Measurements and result would then be distributed league-wide as they normally would be.
League officials will continue to meet over the coming days, according to Breer, but a finalized plan is expected later this coming week.
The NFL has also weighed the option of postponing the combine until April, but still holding it in Indianapolis. While it is on the table, the move would likely requirement the 2021 NFL Draft to be postponed as well.