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Steelers Changing Approach to Scouting Pro Days?

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Omar Khan have been to just three pro days so far in 2024.



Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL Draft
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, special teams coordinator Danny Smith, and then-Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith, right, watch football drills during Georgia's Pro Day, Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

For a long time, it wasn’t very hard to predict who the Pittsburgh Steelers would be taking in the first round of the NFL Draft.

There are the obvious clues of team positional need that work for every NFL franchise, and then there has been a particular foible of the Steelers that has made it even easier to guess Pittsburgh’s intentions.

For well over a decade, the Steelers have drafted with their first-round pick a player who was scouted in-person at his pro day by the team’s head coach and/or general manager.

That’s a heck of a track record, but there are some signs this year that it might not continue forever. More than halfway through the pro day circuit, Steelers general manager Omar Khan and head coach Mike Tomlin have been to just three pro days so far: Alabama, Clemson and Georgia.

There are certainly first-round options for the Steelers from those three schools: tackles Amarius Mims from Georgia and J.C. Latham from Alabama and cornerbacks Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion Arnold from Alabama and Nate Wiggins from Clemson could all be options at pick No. 20.

But there are lots of other options that Khan and Tomlin haven’t and won’t see at their pro day, and it’s not necessarily because they didn’t want to.


On Wednesday, while the Steelers were at Alabama, three other big-time schools — Ohio State, Texas and USC — were also having their pro days.

Illinois had its pro day while the Steelers were hosting Russell Wilson and Mitch Morse on free agent visits. Oregon, Oregon State and Oklahoma had their pro days over the first two days of free agency.

Penn State and UCLA had theirs the day the Steelers introduced Wilson and Patrick Queen at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

Next week, LSU will have its pro day during the NFL owner’s meetings, and Duke and Washington will have theirs on the same day.

Even if Khan and Tomlin wanted to see all of the available prospects for the Steelers to draft at No. 20, it would not have been physically possible because of the schedule and their other commitments.


Whether it’s due to injury or just preference, many of the top prospects in this year’s class are choosing not to work out at their pro days. It’s one thing if it’s Alabama or Georgia, where there are numerous prospects to scout, but there’s no reason for the Steelers to go to Toledo or Iowa with first-round cornerbacks Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean not running.
DeJean is coming off a broken leg and will hold a private workout closer to the draft. It’ll be interesting to see if they attend that one. Mitchell just chose to stand on the work he did at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine, a choice that more and more top prospects are taking.


Nothing stays the same forever, and the Steelers have had a ton of turnover in their scouting department the last few years. With Omar Khan and Andy Weidl at the helm, the Steelers haven’t just changed personnel, but also how they do their business.

One of the changes that went under the radar in 2023, but was obvious this spring was that the Steelers didn’t use NFL Combine formal interviews on players they got to know at the Senior Bowl.

In 2023, there was only one player at the Senior Bowl that was a realistic first-round option for the Steelers. This year, there were several, and so the Steelers not meeting with Mitchell, Oregon’s Jackson Powers-Johnson or Oklahoma’s Tyler Guyton at the combine certainly stood out.

That’s just one instance of the way they’ve changed their business model, but it stands to reason that we should be on the lookout for other changes. If the Steelers reasoned that they saw enough of Powers-Johnson at the Senior Bowl to not interview him again at the combine, it’s reasonable to think they didn’t need to see him again at his pro day, as well.


So who have the Steelers’ brass seen? Here’s the list of prospects ranked between No. 10 and 35, according to NFL Mock Draft Database, and who the Steelers have sent to see them:

Alabama DB Terrion Arnold, OT J.C. Latham, CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB Kamari Lassiter – Omar Khan, Mike Tomlin, Teryl Austin, Dan Rooney Jr., Zach Crockett, Ike Taylor

Clemson CB Nate Wiggins – Omar Khan, Mike Tomlin, Teryl Austin, Arthur Smith, Dan Rooney Jr., Zach Crockett

Georgia TE Brock Bowers, OT Amarius Mims, WR Ladd McConkey – Omar Khan, Mike Tomlin, Teryl Austin, Arthur Smith, Dan Rooney Jr., Mark Sadowski, Zach Crockett

Iowa DB Cooper DeJean – Did not work out at pro day, Jim Ward

Toledo CB Quinyon Mitchell – Did not work out at pro day, Dan Colbert

Illinois DT Johnny Newton – Did not work out at pro day, day of Wilson/Morse visits, Mark Sadowski

Texas DT Byron Murphy, WR Adonai Mitchell, WR Xavier Worthy – Same day as Alabama, Zach Azzanni

Penn State OT Olu Fashanu, OLB Chop Robinson – Robinson did not work out at pro day, day of Wilson/Queen presser, Dan Colbert

UCLA OLB Laiatu Latu – Day of Wilson/Queen presser, Mark Sadowski

Oregon State OT Taliese Fuaga – First day of FA, Pat Meyer

Oregon C Jackson Powers-Johnson, QB Bo Nix, WR Troy Franklin – Second day of FA, Pat Meyer

Oklahoma OT Tyler Guyton – Second day of FA, Kelvin Fisher

Florida State DE Jared Verse, WR Keon Coleman – Friday

Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy – Friday

LSU WR Brian Thomas Jr. – March 27, During owner’s meetings

Washington OL Troy Fautanu, QB Michael Penix – March 28

Duke OL Graham Barton – March 28