MOBILE, Ala. — Along with every other club in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers have sent their team of scouts to the Senior Bowl to scout potential talent coming in the 2019 NFL Draft.
The draft is a popular way to build a team at the professional level. Yet for an organization like the Steelers, a historically conservative franchise in free agency, the annual selection of college players is practically the only way to build/retain a team.
Pittsburgh’s success with the tight end position extends all the way back to dynasty of the 1970’s, with Bennie Cunningham playing a key role in the Steelers offense despite being overshadowed by Hall of Fame players on that side of the ball. With solid tight end talent scattered between that time and the Heath Miller era, Pittsburgh quarterbacks have long had a security blanket to throw to.
The current tight-end room includes the likes of Vance McDonald, Jesse James and Xavier Grimble. With James (unrestricted) and Grimble (restricted) set to become free agents in 2019, the Steelers may very well look to the 2019 draft class to find a replacement should neither player stick with the team through the off-season.
Enter the Senior Bowl.
The group of six tight ends here in Mobile have impressed enough to earn invites, although some are beginning to separate themselves from the pack.
Originally, I pegged the Steelers to watch out for Stetson tight end Donald Parham in my list of potential draft targets here in Mobile. Yet after being able to watch Parham close and in person, his frame (despite being 6-foot-8) doesn’t appear large enough to handle NFL defenders, and he has yet to showcase any fluidity when turning/running routes.
However, two tight ends have stepped up to the plate early in Senior Bowl practices: Foster Moreau of LSU and Drew Sample of Washington.
While Sample has elevated his game enough to be taken in the early rounds, Moreau appears to be a potential mid-round gem. During positional work and team segments of practice, Moreau consistently found himself open while running routes. Moreau’s blocking is a known commodity and he’s slowly but surely making a name for himself, even to an organization like the Steelers.
LSU tight end Foster Moreau grabbed by the #Steelers for an interview. He’s impressed down here.
— Matt Verderame (@MattVerderame) January 23, 2019
The process of evaluating talent for the upcoming draft is a long and extensive one, yet it appears the Steelers are already getting a head start for their work on the tight end position during practices at the Senior Bowl.
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.
Colbert Explains Why He Wanted Three Rounds Added to 2020 Draft
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is offering an explanation as to why he wanted three rounds added to the 2020 NFL Draft.
Speaking with NBC Sport’s Mike Florio on the PFT PM podcast Tuesday, Colbert took the opportunity to clarify his suggestion.
“The reasoning was, part of it was selfish,” Colbert said. “You wanted to have a safety net because we’re dealing with less information, and the more picks you have, maybe you’ll have a little bit of a safety net again.”
With the league’s self-implemented travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs were unable to conduct their normal scouting activities prior to the Draft. This included Pro Days, private workouts and in-person interviews.
Less opportunities to watch and speak with prospects results in a larger margin for error.
Colbert went on to say that it also would have benefited some of the fringe prospects in the Draft that never had the chance to showcase themselves at a Pro Day or other setting.
“The other thing was it would give the marginal player that didn’t get his opportunity to go to a Pro Day and to perform. Maybe there will be more players drafted and then those players will then again have the chance they might not get.”
Now without rookie minicamps, the challenges are mounting for clubs and NFL hopefuls.
“Every year a team might stumble upon a tryout player,” Colbert said. “Maybe if we ever get on the field, we can think of a way to help those because there’s a big group of players that aren’t getting opportunities because of the situation.”
Colbert reminded Florio that the Steelers discovered Devlin “Duck” Hodges as a tryout in camp last year.
It is unclear when teams will be allowed to return to the practice field for their offseason programs, with clubs currently conducting theirs entirely from home.
Mic Drop: NFL Draft Recap Show
It was eat, sleep, draft coverage, repeat for Mike Asti and the Steelers Now crew this past week. And now that the draft is over, Mike Asti evaluates each pick and gives his thoughts on some moves he says the Steelers should have made.