NFL teams, draft prospects find value in pro days
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert flew to Phoenix for the NFL meetings then was back on a plane again almost before he could unpack his bag. After all, it was time for another pro day at a BCS school.
Pro day can be the workout that jumps an NFL prospect a couple of rounds in the draft or dooms a player to a lower round than he anticipated.
Just like that, hundreds of thousands of dollars or more are gained or lost in a single workout that isn't as comprehensive as those at the NFL Scouting Combine but is one in which jobs are won or lost. Only last spring, the Steelers found their starting fullback, Will Johnson, at West Virginia's pro day, more than a year after he last played.
For the players not considered elite enough to be chosen for the combine, their pro day might determine whether they are drafted or signed at all.
Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin concentrate on schools where they have identified potential first- or second-round players.
Colbert and Tomlin attended LSU's pro day Wednesday for example; Thursday was the last day for major-college schools to hold a pro day.
Other schools are targeted by position coaches or scouts; quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner attended the Miami (Ohio) pro day to watch quarterback Zac Dysert — the Steelers have a good track record with quarterbacks from that school.
In fact, the Steelers have attended a large number of pro days featuring quarterbacks, perhaps a sign they will use a relatively early-round pick on a quarterback for the first time since they drafted Ben Roethlisberger out of Miami in 2004.
“The position coaches, we really try to get them to see any (potential) drafted player,” Colbert said. “Sometimes they watch them work out at the combine.
“If a kid was injured, (the position coaches) have to go, because he didn't work out at the combine and we want to have a coach present.
“You just try to get as much exposure as possible.”
Colbert said it's not imperative to attend every pro day. All teams have access to the workout videos of the top 300 or so prospects from the combine, and all pro days are taped. And many teams now demand that potential high draft picks work out for them exclusively.
But at a time when some teams are cutting back on saturation scouting at pro days — there wasn't a single NFL head coach at Alabama's pro day — the Steelers still like the personal touch, the information they can gather only by watching a prospect in person.
Nearly 40 years ago, for example, the Steelers stole future Hall of Fame wide receiver John Stallworth in the fourth round — Chuck Noll lobbied to take him in the first — partly because scout Bill Nunn stayed after the regular pro day (even if it wasn't called that at the time) and obtained better 40-yard dash times for him.
“We don't do it positionally. We do it based on the player that's going to be available at a certain school,” Colbert said, explaining how the Steelers divide up pro day scouting. “The pro days overlap, but we have to cover as many as we possibly can.”
If the Steelers like the player, he might be one of the up to 30 they bring into Pittsburgh for personal interviews.
And who could have envisioned this only a few decades ago?
Not only do millions watch the NFL Network as players in workout gear going through sprints, cone-running and pass-catching drills at the combine, some pro days — such as Southern Cal's on Wednesday — are televised.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith's pro day might go down in the books after he completed 60 of 64 passes. In less than a month, Smith will learn if it was a day that made him millions.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers accomplish mission to get younger, faster on defense
- 4-year-old transplant recipient Angelo Giorno from Derry on life support, family says
- Hacker stuns Dayton family with computer takeover
- Point after touchdowns are extra special in NFL this season
- Previewing the NFL’s American Football Conference
- High school football notebook: WPNT to televise games this season
- Steelers reporter Mark Kaboly’s NFL playoff picks
- NFL going back to the future with Los Angeles
- Through all gimmicks, NFL remains downfield passer league
- Winning, job security don’t go together in today’s NFL
- Previewing the NFL’s National Football Conference