For several years now, I have kept a personal running spreadsheet during the draft process. The goal for me was to learn about the players, gathering information that I have tweaked along the way as I’m sure I will continue to do in the future. I will share a visual and some takeaways from the data points I create each year, simply called interest and athletic scores with explanations to follow.

As Dave Bryan and Alex Kozora discuss regularly, the Steelers have a type of player they look for, and what the scores attempt to achieve is seeing who checks many of those boxes, or vice versa. You will notice many of the inspirations for these scores come from their studies of draft trends over the years for Pittsburgh, and have fared well in who Pittsburgh has ultimately drafted.

While there is no perfect way to predict what selections the Steelers will make in the 2024 draft at the end of the month, I feel great about what the data points measure and of course would love to hear feedback as I’m always looking to improve the points system. Also, there is only so much time in the day and additional things I’d like to measure, so I focus on the crucial and/or practical choices in my opinion.

Now for more explanation to how the scores come together. The biggest point I want to make is this is not a big board or round projection view, rather trying to pinpoint names the Steelers may select regardless of when they are drafted. After I get a healthy pool of names that I hear about or research, I begin the scoring.

Interest Score: Here I configured a points system for the following important factors. College performance, body type, experience, age, position, competition level, pro day attendance, pre-draft meeting(s), and Senior/Shrine Bowl invitations/participation.

This matches up nicely to the Athletic Score: simply 11 combine metrics excluding wingspan, and whether or not they were within a threshold in each metric of any player drafted at their position by the Steelers since 2013.

Clear as mud? Here are the off-ball linebackers (LB) that were combine invites:

NOTE: If you don’t see a name please ask, I have many more non-combine players compiled but excluded them for a cleaner chart.

Here we see a fair amount of interest in the position, with level of competition, Pro Day visits, and meetings standing out in the strongest interest scores, along with most prospects having above average athletic scores.

Comfortably leading the LB group in interest score is Junior Colson of Michigan (10.8), ranking sixth in the entire 2024 draft class. Highly attended Pro Day including HC Mike Tomlin and GM Omar Kahn, multiple meetings (pre-draft, combine), age (21), body type, and 2023 performance were all strong interest marks. Not concerning, but experience was his lowest score. Only measured in, checking all those boxes, with seven DNPs that resulted in a low four athletic score. Primarily box snaps the last three seasons, along with a bit of edge and slot alignment. Third round projection.

After a big drop off, North Carolina’s Cedric Gray ranks second in interest score (9.2). Pro Day attendance including LB coach Aaron Curry, Senior Bowl meeting, age (21), experience, and body type are strengths in the interest department. Performance last year was good, but his lowest mark. Full athletic workout, but missed Pittsburgh’s historical thresholds in hand size (9”) and bench (17). Box alignment primarily, with a bit of slot snaps. Late day two/early day three seems likely.

Jeremiah Trotter Jr. of Clemson is third in interest (8.8). Highly attended Pro Day with Tomlin and Kahn (slew of prospects), combine meeting, age (21), and 2023 performance highlight his interest score. Less size than several peers (but within Pittsburgh’s body type tendencies), along with experience are the other side of the coin. Seven athletic score, checking the boxes he participated in, with four DNPs (40-time, 10-split, vertical, and broad jump). Also played box primarily, with a bit of edge alignment second most common in college. Likely will go on day two.

Ohio State’s Tommy Eichenberg (8.7 interest score, eight athletic score). Pro Day attendance including Curry (LBs coach), combine meeting, experience, Senior Bowl invite, and body type fit the bill. Age (23) and particularly performance last season were lower marks. Checked all the athletic boxes he participated in (DNPs in 40-time, 10-split, and bench). Box snaps primarily, with a bit of slot and edge alignment too. Day three seems probable.

Michael Barrett of Michigan (8.7 interest, seven athletic scores). Highly attended Pro Day, but likely more interest in others including Colson. Senior Bowl invite, experience, and 2023 performance were stronger interest scores, while no meetings, age (24), and body type were on the lower side of things. Athletically, three DNPs (bench, broad jump, and three cone), and smaller hands (8 1/2”) that Pittsburgh’s draft history. Mostly a box player in college, with slot and edge snaps (particularly in 2020) too. Day three/undrafted projection.

NC State’s Payton Wilson (8.0 interest, nine athletic). Pre-draft meeting, 2023 performance, body type, experience (asterisk with notable injury history), and Senior Bowl participant were higher marks. Less Pro Day attendance than the previous names, and age (almost 24) were lower scores. One DNP in athletic drills (bench), and missed the mark in hand size (9”). More alignment versatile than the prior names, with box reps of course, but also substantial time on the edge and a bit from the slot. Day two prospect in my opinion.

Four players have interest scores in the seven range: Trevin Wallace of Kentucky (7.6 interest, nine athletic), Notre Dame’s JD Bertrand (7.4 interest, five athletic), Nathaniel Watson of Mississippi State (7.3 interest, ten athletic), and Ohio State’s Steele Chambers (7.1 interest, ten athletic). Curry was in attendance for Wallace and Chambers’ Pro Days, while Bertrand and Watson had informal combine meetings.

Players with lower interest scores that met with Pittsburgh were Darius Muasau of UCLA (6.9 interest, ten athletic) and Texas A&M’s Edgerrin Cooper (6.2 interest, ten interest). Tyrice Knight of UTEP is the only combine invite with a perfect 11 athletic score, along with making our Alex Kozora’s popular “What The Steelers Look For” study.

No meetings for non-combine invites. Five had perfect 11 athletic scores: Ralen Goforth of Washington (6.9 interest), LSU’s Omar Speights (6.7 interest), Antonio Grier of Arkansas (4.5 interest), Buffalo’s Joe Andreessen (4.3 interest), and Andrew Parker Jr. of Appalachian State (4.1 interest).

Not the biggest position of need for Pittsburgh. But, the homework done can’t be discounted when considering the chance of drafting a LB, from the middle rounds and on in my opinion with several other position needs. One thing’s for sure, I can’t wait to see how it pans out.


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