Steelers Take More Experience Than Usual in Draft

Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin on field
Photo credit Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
By 93.7 The Fan

PITTSBURGH (93.7 the Fan) – Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert noted about halfway through his wrap-up Zoom conference with local reporters that they had only one underclassmen in this year’s draft.

Looking at the last four first round picks—Devin Bush was 20 last year and Terrell Edmunds, T.J. Watt and Artie Burns were all juniors.  The last first round pick that played a senior season was Bud Dupree.

“We always like to catch them younger because they are a little fresher, but the senior normally comes in at a different maturity level,” said Colbert.  “He has played that extra year at the college level which always benefits these players.”

Steelers did not double up on any position, drafting in order, a wide receiver, outside linebacker, running back, offensive guard, safety and defensive lineman.

“It was a good weekend for us,” head coach Mike Tomlin said.  “We were excited about the young men that we were able to acquire.  Now it’s our job as a coaching staff to get these guys assimilated into the program and not only them, but all of the guys as we get into the virtual off-season starting on Monday.”

Tomlin added no excuses for not being able to be with their players physically, saying they need to use the tools available to them to get them ready.

Of the players coming in, 6’4”, 305 pound guard Kevin Dotson from Louisiana-Lafayette would be the only one where there is an open position after the retirement of Ramon Foster.

Tomlin said they will see how Dotson grows saying he has the talent to start, but he will write that story.  Tomlin noted what others do in a camp setting also play into the starting guard decision.

The Steelers did not address a perceived need at tackle, especially if starting right tackle Matt Feiler were to move to guard.  Tomlin said he believes third year Chukwuma Okorafor and last year’s extra blocker, Zach Banner, are capable NFL tackles.

“We’ve watched Chuks and Zach grow over the last couple of years,” Colbert said.  “I think there is a comfort level that both of those guys are NFL tackles.  At what level?  We will see.”

While likely not a starter, 6’2”, 320 pound, seventh round pick Carlos Davis fills an immediate need with the loss of Javon Hargrave in free agency.  Hargrave was a starting nose tackle

“Could he play inside at nose,” Colbert said of Davis, “but he could play as a rush defensive tackle like Javon (Hargrave) did on the inside.  Base defense he will line up at the nose and then in the sub-packages he’ll be on the inside.  He is very athletic.”

Difference with this position, the 3-4 nose tackle is becoming extinct because of all of the exotic and defensive back dominated defenses.

“Will see, he played nose for them,” Tomlin said of Davis at Nebraska.  “Those things will be determined on the field as they should.  We could spend a lot of time speculating.”

Physicality was a theme of this draft with Davis, Alex Highsmith and Antoine Brooks, but also on offense, with Dotson and the 6’4”, 230 pound receiver Chase Claypool.

“It’s just a trait that we value organizationally,” Tomlin said.  “Physicality is a brand of ball that we want to play regardless of position.  We believe it’s an asset to victory for us.  When you can get some wide-outs that display that trait, it’s exciting.”

You would imagine Tomlin would be able to get information from his son, Dino, on a couple of pics.  He was teammates with Maryland draftees Brooks and Anthony McFarland, Junior.

“We have inside information on a lot of our picks in most years,” Tomlin said.  “You can draw the parallels because of the relationships and make a story out of these two.  But the reality is we work our tails off to gather intel on everyone that we select.” 

“This one is probably more obvious from an outside standpoint.  We have a lot of information come to us in a lot of ways in most selections that we make that add to our comfort.”

Normally they use that information to sign a dozen or so undrafted free agents, but that is one major change because of limited contact this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Colbert won’t sign as many of those, preferring to take a chance with XFL players.