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NFL Draft

Steelers Looking for Early-Round WR

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INDIANAPOLIS — Most of the attention paid to the Pittsburgh Steelers over the last couple of months has come in regards to the future of wide receiver Antonio Brown.

In the first couple of days of the 2019 NFL Combine, the Steelers have spent a lot of time focusing on their future without Brown.

The Steelers either have met with, or are expected to meet with, a number of wide receivers that are expected to be drafted in the first three rounds.

Here’s a list of the reported meetings:

D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss
Riley Rildey, Georgia
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
AJ Brown, Ole Miss
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma

According to WalterFootball.com, that’s the No. 1, 2, 4, 5 and 8 wide receivers in the 2019 draft class.

The Steelers have picks No. 20, 52 and 83, and could add to that with a potential trade of Brown. Given that list of interviews, it seems a near certainty that the Steelers are planning on taking a wide receiver in the first two days of the draft.

Here’s a bit more background on the five players the Steelers plan to meet with:

D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss, 6-foot-3, 228 pounds

Left school after his redshirt sophomore year, and had a season-ending neck injury in 2018, so he’s played very little college football. His career stat line at Ole Miss is 67 catches for 1,228 yards and 14 touchdowns.
He’s become infamous for his bodybuilder’s physique, seen here on the right alongside fellow Rebels wide receiver AJ Brown.

But he’s not a physical monster on the field, more known for circus catches than anything else. I asked him if he thought his new-found fame meant he might have to play a bit tougher:

But that’s not to say he isn’t strong. Metcalf put up 27 reps on the bench press, tied for the most amongst wide receivers. He is the nephew of former Browns wide receiver Eric Metcalf.

A.J. Brown, Ole Miss, 6-foot-1, 225 pounds

Brown came into his own an a sophomore in 2017, when he caught 75 balls for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns, and followed that up with 85 catches, 1,320 yards and six scores as a junior before leaving a year early for the draft.

Considered the top threat on the Rebels, Brown pulled coverage away from Metcalf when they played together and is roundly considered to be the top available wide receiver.

Marquise Brown, Oklahoma, 5-foot-9, 166 pounds

The cousin of Antonio, Marquise Brown is not running this week as he recovers from foot surgery, but he did a lot in his two years at Oklahoma, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark both seasons.

He only had two years with the Sooners because he went to a junior college out of high school, mostly due to his size, and that also has many doubting that he can be an outside receiver in the NFL.

Brown doesn’t see it as an issue:

Deebo Samuel, South Carolina, 5-foot-11, 214 pounds

Samuel is another player that’s dealt with injuries. He played just five games in 2015 and three in 2017 before leaving the Gamecocks.

He got the nickname Deebo, from the movie Friday, for being a bully as a very young child, and he said he’s not a bully anymore — except for the field.

The Gamecocks used him as a rushing threat a good bit, and he averaged 6.2 yards per carry in his career in addition to 2,076 yards on 148 catches. He showed a knack for the end zone as a senior, scoring 11 times on 62 catches.

Riley Ridley, Georgia, 6-foot-1, 199 pounds

Ridley is the younger brother of Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley, and also came out after his junior year.

It was the first time he was a full-time starter, after playing six games as a freshman and eight as a sophomore, but his receiving totals don’t quite live up to the promise his frame suggests, as he had 43 catches for 559 yards as a junior.

Ridley is a player that many evaluators believe could be better than his college numbers.

2021 NFL Draft

NFL Cancels In-Person 2021 Scouting Combine in Indianapolis; Pro Days On

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After weeks of rumors and speculation, the NFL has made it official, announcing in a memo to clubs Monday they are significant alterations to the 2021 Scouting Combine.

Annually held in Indianapolis, the league is scrapping in-person workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium, instead opting for pro days on college campuses. The NFL will coordinate with schools to ensure “consistency in testing and drills,” providing video of said workouts to all clubs.

Interviews and psychological testing of prospects normally executed at the physical combine will instead be conducted in an entirely virtual format.

As for medical evaluations, limited in-person exams will most likely be conducted over a three-day span in early April. While some evaluations will also be held virtually, an undetermined number of prospects will be invited to designated satellite locations for in-person exams. Each franchise will be permitted to dispatch a physician and athletic trainer to conduct the in-person portion.

Leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft in April, the league will work directly with clubs, schools and affiliated broadcast partners to ensure media availability with Combine invitees. The NFL intends to keep with tradition and make head coaches and general managers available to the media as well.

The altered Combine format was devised and overseen by a special committee of league and club officials, including NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills, Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill and Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert.

Further details regarding protocols and finalized dates will be released as the committee continues to meet and plan over the coming weeks.

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NFL

Report: NFL to Make Significant Changes to Combine Due to COVID-19

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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.

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NFL Draft

Steelers Clinch No. 24 Pick in 2021 NFL Draft

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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.

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.

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