I don’t think anyone could or would argue that the most successful college football program over the last decade has been the Alabama Crimson Tide. Under Nick Saban, the Tide has won five national championships. There have been 21 first round NFL draft picks from Alabama during his tenure. But for all of that talent, why have the Pittsburgh Steelers been seemingly so reluctant to choose an Alabama player in the NFL Draft?
First of all, timing is part of the situation. The worst record the Steelers have had in the last ten years is 8-8 which means they are going to be selecting in the middle of the draft. In years outside of those mediocre seasons, the Steelers were typically choosing in the early to late twenties. Most of Alabama’s first round talent was already gone by the time the Steelers went on the clock.
Still, that doesn’t really explain why the Steelers under Mike Tomlin and General Manager Kevin Colbert, haven’t selected Bama players in other rounds. There has to be some sort of bias here doesn’t there? The last time the Black and Gold selected a player from Tuscaloosa was 1998. They took cornerback Deshea Townsend in the fourth round of that draft.
I asked NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein about this trend and his response was “I honestly have no idea unless they think those players are maxed out.”
Zierlein’s comment echoes many of those I’ve heard over the years. Saban’s program is so intensely focused and is so demanding of the players that many enter the NFL with bodies (and minds) that have already been pushed to their limits. Certainly there are exceptions. Julio Jones, Landon Collins and guard Evan Mathis are examples of former Alabama players who have thrived in the NFL.
Consider too that the Steelers have often chosen to select guys who were considered ‘very young’ in recent drafts. Artie Burns would be one example but JuJu Smith-Schuster might be the best. Because they like younger, more malleable players, this would certainly rule out a significant portion of the prospects coming out of Alabama.
Could this year be the year, finally, where the Steelers go with a guy from Bama? Due to the injury to Ryan Shazier, they will be looking for help at inside linebacker. One guy that could be available is Rashaan Evans. While it’s likely the Crimson Tider goes earlier, there are plenty of scenarios where he could be available. Evans does not fit a particular category though and that’s youth. The Steelers love to chose first round guys who still have college eligibility remaining. Evans leaves Alabama as a senior.
There could be an easy explanation to this question and this is simply that the Steelers just weren’t that interested in any Alabama players. Or if they were, they were selected ahead of the Steelers’ pick. Maybe they feel Saban’s players just don’t fit the what the Steelers do especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Despite the long drought, many draft experts, including our very own Cnic, are mocking Evans to Pittsburgh. I’ll need more time when it comes to this draft in particular but I don’t see it happening. There is a weird vibe when it comes to not drafting guys from Bama and I think it continues in 2018.