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2024 NFL Draft

Steelers Continue Drafting Freak Athletes Across the Board

The Pittsburgh Steelers are continuing their tradition of drafting freak athletes to help fill out the roster in each of their draft classes.



Pittsburgh Steelers Payton Wilson

The Pittsburgh Steelers carry many mixed bags in their recent NFL Draft history. Dating back since their last Super Bowl win, the first-round picks have been spotty at best. However, the pick that changed Pittsburgh’s draft tendencies can be traced back to Jarvis Jones, who came into the NFL as a questionable athlete after testing and burning the team. But since then, the team has focused on drafting elite athletes.

But in the 2020s, that has become even more prevalent. No longer must first-round picks pass the high athletic thresholds. The team did not see success with some picks that tested as even below-average or just average athletes in the middle rounds, and now the team, through day two drafts, mostly freak athletes. Kent Lee Platte, the creator of Relative Athletic Scores, which has proven to be a predictive indicator, chronicled this. The Steelers’ drafts have become hyper-athletic in recent seasons.

The most athletic of those drafts was in 2023. It is green down the board except for Nick Herbig, who is not there because of his size. But Pittsburgh seems to have stricter athletic requirements that they are looking at nowadays, and that is why they often are drafting guys who might not be as ready to go right off the bat, but they will trust in their coaching. Mike Tomlin has talked about that in the past on The Pivot. He is okay coaching guys up. And that continued in 2024, as the Steelers had the third most athletic class according to RAS.

Looking deeper into this, I figured the Eagles would be an interesting case study, too. Andy Weidl’s connections to Philadelphia and some of the ideas that have come over to Pittsburgh, such as drafting and adding insanely athletic offensive linemen. Unsurprisingly, the Eagles are also one of those teams that seems to zero in on getting high-level athletes. When paired with Omar Khan, the Steelers value this a lot.

Pittsburgh values it at a league-average and higher levels than most of the league. Pittsburgh had one of the two most athletic classes in the NFL last season, along with the Indianapolis Colts. So, remember, when talking about guys that the team could draft, these athletic benchmarks matter. And they matter a lot to the team. When you explore this specific threshold that the team will have, it can filter out certain guys throughout the NFL Draft.

So, it remains clear that the Steelers value athletes across the board. They continue to get more athletic on their team, which is a hallmark of recent drafts and looks to be a staple in their drafting strategies for the future.