While speaking to the media at the 2014 NFL Combine, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said that while the class of draft hopeful players was the deepest that he’s probably ever seen because of the record number of underclassmen that declared, the group had one obvious downside.
“I fear it’s also the most immature,” Colbert told the media.
Colbert would go on to say how the interviews with the players during the annual Indianapolis event was an important part of the draft process in order to sift through a lot of them that they didn’t already know much about.
“It’s an ongoing process. You talk to their college coaches, personal liaisons. How they handle the private interviews is huge. It’s a huge leap,” said Colbert. “I don’t think a lot of them understand it until they actually get on the playing field and see the increase in the quality of play.
“The emotional part of being a college kid and getting on the field and one day being a pro is significant.”
Despite the fear of immaturity, three of the Steelers first four selections in the 2014 NFL Draft wound up being underclassmen. First-round selection linebacker Ryan Shazier, second-round pick Stephon Tuitt and fourth-rounder Martavis Bryant.
Head coach Mike Tomlin sounded optimistic about the trio of youngsters immediately after the draft.
“We buy into the upside of these young men,” Tomlin said.
That was several months ago and now with a complete offseason program and one week’s worth of training camp now used to get a better look at his young players, immaturity doesn’t seem to be a concern at all to Tomlin.
“The big thing is, we’ve got some seasoned guys in this draft class,” Tomlin told SiriusXM Radio before Friday night’s practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium. “Ryan Shazier’s a third-year junior but he’s a three-year starter at OhioState. Tuitt’s a third-year junior but he’s a three-year starter at Notre Dame. Dri Archer’s a fifth-year senior, he’s older than Le’Veon Bell. So there’s a little bit more maturity, in particularly football maturity, in this group than meets the eye.”
Barring something totally unforeseen at this point, Shazier will begin the season as a starter. And while that’s an accomplishment all unto itself, when you consider the recent history as it relates to rookies and the Steelers defense, the fact that he’s an underclassmen makes the feat even that more impressive.
As for Tuitt, while he just recently turned 21, you wouldn’t know it when you listen to him talk to the media. He’s a very humble kid, who appears to already understand the process and what’s expected out of him in the future.
The Steelers have never been shy about drafting underclassmen, but in the future, when we’re all trying to figure out who the team might draft during the offseason, it will not only be important to try to research player’s character and maturity off the field, but their football maturity on the field as well. Just like the Steelers did this year.