For Pittsburgh Steelers fans, the process by which the team goes about assembling their draft strategy has long been a source of curiosity and intrigue.
After all, it could be argued that the Steelers have been one of the best teams over the course of the past four plus decades in terms of building their roster through the draft, starting with the selection of defensive tackle Joe Greene in 1969.
Greene came in and changed the culture of the team, becoming a perennial All-Pro and helping lead the Steelers to four Super Bowl victories in six seasons. The Hall of Fame player then joined the team as an assistant coach.
After retiring from coaching in 2004, he became special assistant for player personnel, which in part helped evaluate draftees. He retired from this post in 2013, but not before adding two more Super Bowl rings.
With the legacy of players such as Greene, whose involvement with the organization spanned seemingly half a century, and the notoriety of the ‘greatest draft of all time’ in 1974, which garnered four Hall of Fame players, it’s no surprise that fans would be interested in the mystique behind the team’s draft process, even if it’s far from unique.
Which is why the Steelers’ new series exploring the behind the scenes story of their recent draft is of interest to me, and surely to others as well, even if not much in terms of state secrets are likely to be revealed.
Among the interesting tidbits in the inaugural installment of the series are sound bites from interviews with head coach Mike Tomlin regarding the interview process during the scouting combine, as well as with general manager Kevin Colbert, during which he highlights the role of the coaching staff in the scouting process.
Tomlin talked about what he looks to get out of the player interviews as a head coach, explaining that he feels it’s important to get to know the person before you go about testing him, as sort of a litmus test to compare results to expectations:
“To me, my goal is to get to know the player. Obviously, I think you’ve got to get to know someone before you go about testing them, or it aids in the process of testing them. So I really go in there with that spirit, that I’m going to use that 15 minutes to get a sense of their background, who they are, where they intend to go”.
He went on, saying that “usually the ‘con jobs’, or people trying to hide information and things like, that simply reveals itself in the midst of all of that and really it’s pretty transparent”.
It was Colbert’s segment that was more interesting to me, however, though he didn’t spill any great revelations. While it’s no secret that the coaching staff has some input into the draft process, I was glad to hear the general manager lay out the process.
“Our coaches are very involved in the process, as they should be”, Colbert said. “We’ll give them a list of players by position that are based on our scouts’ ratings that we want them to evaluate”.
Naturally, coaches should have some scouting blood in their veins by default; after all, they need to be able to identify strengths and weaknesses in their own players and whether or not they are coachable.
I look forward to future installments of the Steelers’ behind the scenes series as it goes forward, especially as the process gets closer to draft time. The team’s current crop of draftees seems to be a good harvest, but of course a final verdict awaits years down the road.