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2024 NFL Draft

Did Mike Tomlin Give a Hint on Steelers First Round Draft Pick?

Mike Tomlin did not drop an explicit tell-all on who the Pittsburgh Steelers would pick, but a lot of signs point to Graham Barton.



Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Tomlin
Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager Omar Khan and Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin speak at a press conference at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex before the NFL Draft, Monday, April 22, 2024 in Pittsburgh, PA. (Karl Roser / Pittsburgh Steelers)

The Pittsburgh Steelers seem to be set on drafting an offensive linemen in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft. However, whether that is a tackle or center remains to be seen, and two candidates are rising above the rest: Graham Barton and Amarius Mims.

Barton is an impressive player on film, and though many are projecting him to move positions because his lack of length leaves him in trouble on the outside at tackle, many believe he is a special talent who could play center. Former Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, who helps the Steelers out with some scouting services, weighed in on Barton.

Barton played center as a freshman at Duke before moving to left tackle. With shorter arms than a typical NFL tackle, most teams are set to move him inside, and Barton did most of his positional drills at center, the interior position that he has played the most.

But, interestingly, Mike Tomlin commented on the specific transition that Barton would have to make to play at center after playing at tackle. When asked what traits he looks for in guys at tackle that make the switch to the interior, Tomlin basically described Barton.

“You know, usually there are some intellect things in terms of front identification, and so forth, communication-oriented things, and they have to show an aptitude for that,” Tomlin said. “And preferably, they have something in their background. Whether
they were a backup guy that did it in practice, so you didn’t see him do it in the game, or maybe a guy that maybe did it as a
young guy and evolved to other positions as they’ve gotten older. Usually, there’s a history of some kind there, and an aptitude
there that allows you to make those assumptions.”

A tell-all? Hardly. But a nice wink and a nudge from Tomlin, who knew what the question was about? Sure. And Barton has a ton of commonalities with what Tomlin listed. The high football IQ is there, and he does have a center background due to playing there as a freshman. How easily would it come back to him? Barton is not stressing that part, comparing snapping to a riding a bike.

“(Snapping the ball), It’s like riding a bike,” he said at the NFL Combine. “You pick it back up. It’s a learned skill. Once you have that skill, you carry on. Definitely obviously going to keep working on that and being ready to go at any position and whatever a team needs from me. It’s certainly something to drill and work on and have ready to go.”

The Steelers have shown significant interest in Barton. They met with him formally at the combine, brought him in for a pre-draft visit and sent offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to his pro day.

Barton is considered to be a late Round 1 draft pick, with his current NFL Mock Draft Database average at No. 27 overall. The Steelers pick at No. 20, so they could be one of the earlier teams looking at Barton, or they could be considering him as a trade-back option.