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Steelers looking to Stanford for character

After a dismal season of underperforming in close games, perhaps the Steelers spending time at Stanford University and with its players despite there not being a high-level draft-eligible player suggests the team is looking to find those "team-first" guys.

Donald Miralle

Steel City Insider publisher Jim Wexell wrote a great feature piece in Saturday's edition about Stanford University, and its recent run of success.

Wexell points out, tongue-in-cheek, how the "great bastion of academics" has won 43 of its last 53 games without good coaches or good players.

It's about character. It's about team-first players.

He interviewed running back Stepfan Taylor during the Combine, and his answers were interesting. He spoke of culture-related things that have helped keep Stanford relevant, despite losing several high-end players - including Steelers right guard David DeCastro, the team's first round pick in 2012 - as well as members of its coaching staff.

Taylor said, among other things, "you've got to be a team-first player at Stanford."

Perhaps that, above everything else, is what the Steelers are seeking in any and all new additions to the team this year. Maybe that's what they felt they had with those players they re-signed, brought back or brought in for the first time. Maybe that's why they're spending time at Stanford, a school with a big-time record but lacking big-time draft talent this year.

None of this means they're planning to grab the best Stanford player available, but success begets success. If you're around success (and I mean the "right" kind of success, which is character-based more than anything else), odds are good you're going to be successful.

The crowning point Wexell makes is in a quote he got from Taylor.

Stanford won 9 of its 12 games last season by 7 points or less, and Taylor said that "having a close locker room definitely helped us out a lot, being able to stick together and pull through those wins."

Winning close games used to be something they Steelers did frequently. Last year? Not so much. The Steelers were 3-5 in games decided by three points or less. That's half the regular season. It may be difficult to prove a direct connection between team chemistry and character and that same team's ability to win close games, but it "feels" like it has something to do with it.

The suggestion of the Steelers scouting Stanford, and that program's recent success (especially this season when they did not have the Andrew Lucks and DeCastros they've had in the past) with high character players, could mean the Steelers buy into it.