It’s that time of the year again folks, when Indianapolis, Indiana becomes the focal point of the football world during the NFL Scouting Combine. It’s a place where workout warriors have wrecked many a teams draftboards, because members of those front offices and their coaching staff’s have had a very difficult time separating fact from fiction. Those who do their homework come out the winners, while those seeking a quick fix to a problem usually get left holding the bag. The true purpose of the combine is to put together as much of a mental and medical portfolio on players as possible, in a short amount of time, and to test their athletic ability through a series of drills. The Combine is by no means a substitute for what each player puts on their own game tape, it’s simply another tool to help decide which candidates have the best shot at playing football on Sunday afternoons.
The Pittsburgh Steelers seem to have a better understand of what the combine is all about, moreso than most teams do, and the way they go about their business in Indy is a good indicator of that. Their standard operating procedure regarding the combine seems to be built on research and verification, meaning they watch months of game film on the players who interest them, and then use the combine to see where they are at mentally and medically. They rarely, if ever get distracted by performances that could be classified as athletic anomalies, choosing instead to focus on players who best fit the criteria of their needs. The key to the success that the Steelers have had at the combine, through the drafting process, has been the working relationship of Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert. Together they have developed the formula that makes them a successful pair year after year.
According to Mike Tomlin, the key to accomplishing the team’s goals for the Combine is to avoid all of the unnecessary distractions, and remain focused on why we are here. His preference when observing players is to pair up with the scout who identified them, in order to become more familiar with their weaknesses and strengths, which is also valuable information for the intervewing portion of the combine. When it comes to the interviewing the players that Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert view as potential future Steelers, it’s to lay the ground work for pre-draft visits, and each question they ask these prospects seems to have a specific purpose behind it.
Bill Cowher looked for thoughtful and consistent answers that not only shed light on the character of these individuals, but also to gauge their football I.Q. It’s logical to believe that Mike Tomlin takes the same approach in deciding who to bring in for the allotted amount of pre-draft visits. What would really be interesting to know is how many players they have come across through this process, and brought in for a pre-draft visit, that they hadn’t initially targeted. Was it their interview that made all the difference? It’s no accident when late round picks like Javon Hargrave and Antonio Brown make the impacts that they have, because they possessed the talent and work ethic to succeed.
While it took good eyes and instincts to see what Brown and Hargrave could be, sometimes it takes a little luck to discover these hidden gems. Mike Tomlin believes that good luck is the product of hard work and preparation, in which case, the future of the roster should be very promising. This is the time of the year when championship rosters are built, which also happens to be one of the favorite parts of the job for Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin. While they have no major holes to fill, they will no doubt be looking for James Harrison’s successor, some additional help at cornerback, and a potential replacement for DeAngelo Williams. However the ultimate plan unfolds, Tomlin and Colbert will turnover every stone to complete the championship puzzle, but to do that, it starts right here in Indianapolis.