Earlier this week, it was reported by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that Mike Tomlin sat down with defensive coordinator Keith Butler and had a “productive” meeting, leaving the door open for the possibility of Butler’s return after so many had pegged Butler to lose his job following the conclusion of the 2018 season.
After the hiring of former Bengals defensive coordinator Teryl Austin as a “senior defensive assistant/secondary coach”, it was also announced that Butler would handle duties of coaching the linebackers following the departure of Joey Porter.
If any hope amongst a disgruntled fan base still resonated for Butler to find his bags packed and ready to go, that door was shut within the last few days. Butler has yet to make a public comment about his job status, but the Steelers have already made a statement through their actions: We’re not making any serious changes for 2019.
With the coaching staff largely intact from this season, the change now rests on the gridiron and the players who step foot on it to right the ship in 2019 and return to the playoffs.
Enter the draft class of 2019.
We are three months away from the 2019 NFL Draft, yet the nameless players that will become the newest additions in Pittsburgh will step foot into the Steelers facilities with pressure already applied to perform. Why?
2019 could be boom or bust, for many reasons. The Steelers Super Bowl window is closing, perhaps at a faster rate than projected thanks to an underperforming coaching staff, a few select superstars on the verge of leaving and a team that hasn’t lived up to expectations. It might be now or never for these Steelers to bring the Lombardi trophy back to Pittsburgh.
Another reason the draft class of 2019 carries such significance can be found within the Steelers own draft failures through years past. General Manager Kevin Colbert is expected to select another defensive player in this year’s first round, which would extend his streak to seven consecutive first round picks spent on the defensive side of the ball.
His track record?
2013: Jarvis Jones (Hasn’t played in the league since 2016)
2014: Ryan Shazier (Great player, currently working on making his way back to the football field)
2015: Bud Dupree (Has one year left to prove he isn’t Jarvis Jones 2.0)
2016: Artie Burns (After a great rookie year, has regressed substantially)
2017: T.J. Watt (Phenomenal pick, potential cornerstone player)
2018: Terrell Edmunds (Too early to tell, but not an impressive rookie campaign)
Will 2019’s first round pick fall to the same fate as majority of the pack? If so, jobs are seriously in danger on all fronts. The decision to keep Butler essentially ties the team’s immediate performance in 2019 to their job status, as Pittsburgh could very well wave good-bye to the likes of Tomlin, Butler and even Colbert should the team not hit its goals.
With the team’s cap situation tied to a number of different factors including situations with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, it’s unknown the spending power Pittsburgh will tout in free agency, although the franchise historically prefers to focus on in-house players and forego big names in free agency.
So where will the team turn to get the proper chess pieces to conquer the board in 2019? You guessed it, the NFL’s annual collegiate entry draft.
There’s a lot riding on 2019, as whichever way the pendulum swings will determine the direction the franchise moves going forward. A strong rookie class could bail the Steelers out of problems that plagued them in 2018, while also holding the potential to put Pittsburgh in rebuild mode. With recent drafts falling subject to criticism and judgement on Colbert’s scouting department, it’s imperative the Steelers emerge as winners when the draft concludes.
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.
Steelers Clinch No. 24 Pick in 2021 NFL Draft
Following their opening round playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers now know where they will be selecting in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Pittsburgh now owns the No. 24-overall selection in April’s draft.
Updated 2021 NFL Draft order after Super Wild Card Weekend:— NFL Draft (@NFLDraft) January 11, 2021
19) Washington Football Team
23) Jets (via Seahawks)
A number of needs and questions plague the Steelers as they enter the offseason and turn their attention toward the draft process, with multiple directions they can go with their first round pick. Offensive line, running back and cornerback all appear viable options for the Steelers at No. 24.
The Steelers have not had a first round selection since trading up to draft inside linebacker Devin Bush with the tenth-overall pick in 2018. Pittsburgh did not have a first rounder in last year’s draft, sending it to the Miami Dolphins in 2019 to acquire safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The draft is scheduled to be held from April 29 to May 1 in Cleveland, Ohio, though it’s unclear if that will come to pass or if the draft will once again be held virtually, as the 2020 NFL Draft was.
Mic Drop: Adam Zielonka of Washington Times on McFarland, Brooks
Instead of trading for a proven running back like Leonard Fournette, the Steelers simply drafted a rookie with their 4th round pick. That rookie is Anthony McFarland out of the University of Maryland. To fully explain what McFarland brings to the table, Mike Asti was joined by Adam Zielonka, who is a sports reporter for the Washington Times. Zielonka also touched Antoine Brooks, the other Maryland product drafted by the Steelers.