Tomlin's Trends Continue: Steelers Draft Predictable

If are taking the time to read this, then you already know the Tomlin trend when it comes to the draft. Mike Tomlin attends the Pro-Day of the Steelers 1st round pick. This has been the case for at least the past 10 years, bookended by the Jones' from Georgia (Jarvis in '13 and Broderick in '23). So, until that trend is broken, when doing a mock draft or putting together a list of candidates for their 1st round pick, you should begin and end with the top players from Tomlin's Pro-Day visits.

This year, with GM Omar Khan presiding over the draft for the first time, I thought there could be exception to the Tomlin trend. Tomlin likes the players he's familiar with and, this year, none were more familiar than Joey Porter Jr. Even though Tomlin didn't make it to Penn State's Pro Day, I didn't think he needed to for JPJ. To a lesser extent, I felt the same about Deonte Banks from Maryland. Tomlin is very familiar with that program having his son, Dino, play there from 2019-21 (Dino's now at Boston College). I also thought an exception could be made for Christian Gonzalez who they brought in for a Pre-Draft visit (as they did with fellow CBs Porter and Banks). My final exception was for OT Darnell Wright who they seemed to show considerable interest in. Assistant GM Andy Weidl was at his Pro Day along with OL Coach Pat Meyer. They also had Wright in for a Pre-Draft visit. Therefore, my list of candidates for the Steelers top pick included those 4 plus 10 who had Tomlin attend their Pro-Day. Here's that list if you did not read my previous Fanpost...

1. DT Jalen Carter - Georgia, 2. OLB Will Anderson - Alabama, 3. CB Christian Gonzalez - Oregon, 4. OT Paris Johnson - Ohio State, 5. OT Broderick Jones - Georgia, 6. OLB Nolan Smith - Georgia, 7. EDGE Myles Murphy - Clemson, 8. EDGE Lukas Van Ness - Iowa, 9. CB Joey Porter Jr - Penn State, 10. DL Bryan Breese - Clemson, 11. DB Brian Branch - Alabama, 12. OT Darnell Wright - Tennessee, 13. CB Deonte Banks - Maryland, 14. OLB Will McDonald IV - Iowa State.

As you can see, I tried to rank the players and I was wrong about Gonzalez. They preferred Jones to and traded up to get him. Carter, Anderson, Johnson, Van Ness, and Wright we're gone by pick 14 when the Steelers traded up for Jones. The rest of these players, except Porter and Branch, went in the 1st round. Of course, we know where Porter went (more on that later). So, if I were to do this list over again, I would've simply removed the 4 I gave exceptions to and went with the original 10 who had Tomlin at their Pro Day. Something to remember for next year!

The next Tomlin Trend that rarely gets mentioned is, since 2017, Tomlin has been at the Pro Day for at least one of their Day 2 picks as well. Cam Sutton (3rd) in '17, James Washington (2nd) and Mason Rudolph (3rd) in '18, Justin Layne (3rd) in '19, Pat Freiermuth (2nd) in '21, Geroge Pickens (2nd) in '22 and now Pickens fellow Georgia teammate Darnell Washington in '23. This trend adds even more weight to the importance of following where Tomlin goes for Pro Days because it will guide you not only to their 1st round pick but another one again on Friday (Day 2).

Now, let's return to that list of potential 1st round picks again. For the past 3 years, both of the Steelers top 2 picks have come from my list. Here's my list from a Fanpost I did last year...

EDGE Aidan Hutchinson - Michigan, EDGE Travon Walker - Georgia, OT Evan Neal - Alabama, OT Ickey Ekwonu - NC State, CB Sauce Gardner - Cincinnati, S Kyle Hamilton - Notre Dame, WR Jameson Williams - Alabama, CB Derek Stingley - LSU, DT Jordan Davis - Georgia, QB Malik Willis - Liberty, QB Kenny Pickett - Pitt, QB Desmond Ridder - Cincinnati, QB Matt Corral - Ole Miss, DL Devonte Wyatt - Georgia, QB Sam Howell - UNC, LB Nakobe Dean, CB Andrew Booth, WR George Pickens - Georgia, LB Quay Walker - Georgia, LB Channing Tinadall, S Lewis Cine - Georgia, S Dax Hill - Michigan, LB Christian Harris - Alabama, OLB David Ojabo - Michigan.

(and to save space, I won't post my entire list from 2021 since I did it on another site, but Najee Harris and Pat Freiermuth were among the 20 names I listed, with Najee being one of the obvious favorites for the top pick).

My lists from the past 2 years had about 20-25 names of the top players Tomlin saw at Pro Days. Therefore, it makes sense if any from that list is still available come Round 2, they would be leading contenders to be the pick. This year, Joey Porter Jr was that guy. They obviously liked him enough to decline offers to trade down in Round 2 and pick up additional picks.

This year, the Steelers had 2 picks in Round 2, and the following list (from my Fanpost) is who I thought would be the options at 2.32 and 2.49. I did not expect JPJ to fall that far, so that's why he's not listed here...

1. CB Deonte Banks - Maryland, 2. OLB Will McDonald - Iowa State, 3. CB Kelee Ringo - Georgia, 4. DT Mazi Smith - Michigan, 5. CB Tyrique Stevenson - Miami, 6. ILB Trenton Simpson - Clemson, 7. CB DJ Turner - Michigan, 8. TE Darnell Washington - Georgia, 9. CB Julius Brents - Kansas State, 10. DE Keon White - Georgia Tech, 11. OL Anton Harrison - Oklahoma 12. ILB Jack Campbell - Iowa, 13. C John Michael Schmitz - Minnesota, 14. OT Dawand Jones - Ohio State, 15. OL Cody Mauch - North Dakota State, 16. S Jordan Battle - Alabama, 17. OLB Felix Anudike-Uzomah - Kansas State, 18. NT Siaki Ika - Baylor, 19. DT Keeanu Benton - Wisconsin, 20. G/C Steve Avila - TCU.

Banks, McDonald, Smith, Harrison, Campbell, and Anudike-Uzomah actually went in the 1st, so they were already gone. The rest went any various spots in the 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th. Of course, the Steelers got both Keeanu Benton and Darnell Washington from this list. What do all 20 of these players on the list have in common? They had Tomlin at their Pro Day or, if not, they were brought in for an official Pre-Draft visit. Benton and Washington were both had Pre-Draft visits (as did Broderick Jones). Each year, they generally draft, or sign as a UDFA 2-3 players, who were brought in for official Pre-Draft visits. So, pay very close attention to those Steelers official pre-Draft visits.

My list of candidates for the 3rd round pick consisted of guys from Tomlin Pro-Days, Pre-Draft visits, and guys who had a Steelers position coach at their Pro Day (but not Tomlin).

NT Siaki Ika - Baylor, DT Keeanu Benton - Wisconsin, G/C Steve Avila - TCU, CB Darius Rush - South Carolina, ILB Dorian Williams - Tulane, OLB Nick Herbig - Wisconsin, EDGE ,Tuli Tuipolotu, TE Luke Schoonmaker - Michigan, TE Sam LaPorta - Iowa, OLB Barron Young - Tennessee, WR Jonathan Mingo - Mississippi, C Luke Wypler - Ohio State, RB Israel Abanikanda - Pitt, OT Tyler Steen - Alabama, DE Zach Harrison - Ohio State, ILB Henry To'oto'o - Alabama, WR Charlie Jones - Purdue, DL Karl Brooks - Bowling Green.

A name that should jump out to you is Nick Herbig. No, he wasn't the 3rd round pick. He was their 4th round pick. That's because Darnell Washington fell further than they expected and became an exceptional value pick after they traded down to 3.93 while picking up the 4.132 (where they got Herbig). It seemed like a no-brainer then, having not taken an OLB yet, and Herbig being still available that he would be the pick.

The trend to remember from the Herbig pick this: Follow where the Steelers position coaches go for Pro-Days, they will generally lead you to the Steelers 3rd or 4th round pick. Last year it was DeMarvin Leal in the 3rd. In 2021, it was OT Dan Moore in the 4th, and 2019 was Diontae Johnson in the 3rd with position coaches at their Pro Day but not Tomlin.

Finally, when we get to Day 3 on Saturday, anything is possible. After Herbig in the 4th, the Steelers didn't pick again until the 7th round where they had two picks (7.241 and 7.251). This was the list I suggested as possibilities for the picks...

WR Bryce Ford-Wheaton - West Virginia, QB Jaren Hall - BYU, QB Clayton Tune - Houston, NT Broderic Martin - Western Kentucky, OLB Lonnie Phelps - Kansas, ILB Shaka Heyward - Duke, ILB Ben VanSumeren - Michigan State, NT Jerrod Clark - Costal Carolina, TE Blake Whiteheart - Wake Forest, RB Chris Rodriquez - Kentucky, RB Camerun Peoples - Appalachain State, S Tanner Ingle - North Carolina State (official visit but likely only a UDFA candidate).

Normally, the Steelers bring in more Pre-Draft visitors who project as late Day 3 picks or UDFAs. This year, it was only Ford-Wheaton and Ingle who fit that category best. I was hoping QBs Tune or Hall, both brought in as visitors, would slip to the 7th but neither did. The rest were guys who they showed interest in at the Combine or at their Pro Day. No one from this list was selected or signed, even though BFW was a popular candidate for the last pick amongst us fans on Saturday.

With CB Cory Trice and OL Spencer Anderson were the picks. Was that predictable? Not so much, although, as the draft unfolded, maybe it should have been. Trice was probably the best overall available when 7.241 rolled around. He presented great value at that point, and I doubt the Steelers thought he'd still be there that late. So, that part is hard to predict. With Anderson, he's from Maryland and Tomlin is familar with Maryland players. So, when in doubt, we should predict Tomlin will choose who he is most familiar with.

So, there you have it! Another draft is in the books and Tomlin's Trends continue. Yes, there will always be surprises in the draft, but the clues to the 2023 draft class where there for us all along. Other than Trice, they all fit one of Tomin's Trends. This a great first draft under Omar Khan, and all of the picks (except maybe Anderson) were great value where they were taken! Maybe we can start that trend called a Khan Kreation (I know, lame word/spelling use) that is, a draft where Khan creates amazing value with every pick!

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