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How Have Analytics Changed Steelers’ Draft Process?



Steelers Draft Kevin Colbert

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert talked for a few minutes on how analytics have changed his scouting process for the NFL Draft over the course of his career. Colbert is set to have his final draft as the general manager of the Steelers after more than 20 years at the helm. The team held their pre draft press conference on Monday where Colbert discussed analytics and more.

“Obviously the analytical world is big,” said Colbert. “It’s getting bigger. And we respect that, we understand it. We work within it… but it’s never going to take over for the evaluation. It never did in my world.”

Despite analytics not being the focus point of the Steelers draft process, Colbert said that the team’s decision makers do understand and consider it. He specifically named head coach Mike Tomlin as one who understands the analytics of the game.

”Coach (Mike Tomlin) understands it, he respects it. We acknowledge the analytics side more so than the pro side of things when you’re comparing apples to apples.”

However it wasn’t football who brought the use of analytics to the forefront. While all four of the US major sport leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB) use analytics, it was baseball that has essentially become the face of sports analytics. So much so that a movie on the Oakland Athletics use of analytics in the early 2000s was released almost a decade ago called “Moneyball”.

”Our friends in the baseball world pointed that out to us. And the amateur scouting for them, they can’t really use the analytics because they’re comparing high school, junior college, college, minor league players, whatever and we’re the same way…”

“We’ll acknowledge that this guy has a certain percentage of a catch, run after the catch, and so on and so forth, but who’s he do it against on what Saturday? So that world is evolving. I think it’s valuable. But I think it also has to have guidelines to go along with it.”

The guidelines stem from acknowledging the human factors that could cause certain percentages to fluctuate.

”The fresh ideas will be there, but hopefully the people who be there with the fresh ideas have an understanding of what really is important and that’s what happens on that field on a given Saturday.”

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