The entrance and lobby area to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex are undergoing extensive renovations this spring. That hasn’t meant the (temporary side) doors haven’t been open to NFL draft prospects.
Through Thursday, the Steelers have hosted 14 players for pre-draft official visits. That’s almost half of the 30 they are permitted. Whom the team chooses to meet with can, in some ways, provide a glimpse into what players – or what kind of players and at what positions – the Steelers are investigating drafting.
As our Mark Kaboly has noted, predraft visitors have been a strong indication recently of whom the Steelers are targeting. Over the past three years, 15 of the Steelers’ 26 draft picks were predraft visitors, including four last year with Senquez Golson, Doran Grant, Jesse James (unofficial – as a local native visits such as James do not count toward the 30 limit) and Sammie Coates. Also, three predraft visitors last year ended up as undrafted free agents: Tyler Murphy, Cam Clear and Devin Gardner.
Of course, these visitors are not the lone indicator of Steelers’ interest. Teams are allotted 60 interviews with prospects (15 minutes each) at the combine in Indianapolis in February. Coaches and personnel executives also can meet with prospects at, during or after their respective “Pro Day” workouts on campus. These actually can often provide the most one-on-one time (coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert took a couple high-end prospects in the state of Texas out to dinner in University of Houston CB William Jackson III and Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings, for example).
Predraft visits to the team facility also usually include breaking bread with a position coach or coordinator. Not unlike the rest of us, it’s a “job interview” on-site at the place of possible future employment.
Here is a list of the visitors, broken down by date and including school, position, size and projected round they’ll be selected in (via NFLdraftscout.com via CBS Sports). Click on the player’s name for the NFL’s official draft profile of the player and on the date of the visit for a recap of that day’s visits.
Friday April 1: (4)
S Deon Bush (Miami), 7th rd/undrafted free agent
S Jeremy Cash (Duke), 2nd rd
OL Jerald Hawkins (LSU), 2nd-3rd rd
CB David (D.J.) White (Georgia Tech), 3rd-4th rd
Saturday-Monday April 2-4:
Tuesday April 5: (1)
DT A’Shawn Robinson (Alabama), 1st rd
Wednesday April 6: (4)
OT Caleb Benenoch (UCLA), 7th rd/UDFA
S Keanu Neal (Florida), 2nd rd
S Darian Thompson (Boise State), 4th-5th rd
CB Tavon Young (Temple), 5th rd
Thursday April 7: (5)
S Vonn Bell (Ohio State), 2nd rd
S T.J. Green (Clemson), 3rd rd
CB Jonathan Jones (Auburn), 4th rd
CB Ryan Smith (NC Central), 7th rd/UDFA
DE Quinton Jefferson (Maryland), 7th rd/UDFA (**Woodland Hills HS alum**)
DE Dean Lowry (Northwestern), 7th rd-UDFA
S Trae Elston (Ole Miss), 7th-UDFA
Monday, April 11: (8)
CB Ken Crawley (Colorado), 5th-6th rd
S Sean Davis (Maryland), 5th rd
CB Cyrus Jones (Alabama), 3rd-4th rd
S Karl Joseph (West Virginia), 2nd-3rd rd
LB Dadi Nicholas (Virginia Tech), 6th rd
Tuesday, April 12: (1)
WR Sterling Shepard (Oklahoma), 2nd-3rd rd
Tuesday, April 19: (3)
RB Devontae Booker (Utah), 2nd rd
CB Brandon Williams (Texas A&M), 7th rd-UDFA
S Jarrod Wilson (Michigan), unrated
S Jayron Kearse (Clemson), 6th rd
Running tally of *official* visits by position (updated 4/19/16):
- 12 safeties
- 7 cornerbacks
- 2 offensive tackles
- 2 defensive tackles
- 2 defensive ends
- 2 wide receivers
- 2 linebackers
- 1 running back
(25 defensive players; five offensive players)
(**Note: players who are local natives or go to a local college can meet with the Steelers and not count toward their allotment limit of 30).