There’s nothing I love more than Pro Day season. What the Pittsburgh Steelers’ scouting staff are doing in 2022 is, at its core, the same, hitting the trial hard to scour as many schools as possible. No head coach goes to as many Pro Days as Mike Tomlin, Omar Khan has been hard at work in his first full offseason as GM, and we’ve spotted a handful of positional coaches around the country, a key indicator for the team’s interest beyond the first round.
But one thing has been a little different. With a front office shakeup last year, the Steelers’ area scouts are doing things a little differently in 2023. At least, in different locations. We can already tell some of the team’s scouts have been reassigned to different areas.
The way scouts function is they don’t scout a specific position. There is no “running backs coach” and an “inside linebacker coach.” That’s not how it works basically across the league. Scouts are divvied up by regions, otherwise known as “area scouts.” They’re responsible for certain parts of the country. Broadly speaking, the North, the South, the East, and the West.
With Pittsburgh’s scouts experiencing very little turnover, their regions were consistent and predictable. For example, Dan Colbert was the team’s Midwest Scout, mostly focusing on MAC and Michigan schools. Mark Bruener was the West Area Scout, focusing on Washington (his home state), Oregon, and some of California. Now-retired scout Rick Reiprish dominated the Southeast, anything in Florida or Georgia, while Mark Gorscak, famous for running the Combine’s 40 yard dash, covered the south, places like Texas. Up north you had Dave Petett, who would scout the Northeast (think Boston College) and the occasional Canadian trip while Mike Butler often patrolled the East Coast and the Carolinas.
Though we’re still in the heart of scouting season, our tracker already paints a different picture. So far, we’ve spotted Gorscak at Purdue, Michigan State, Central Michigan, and Eastern Michigan. Bruener has been spotted at Minnesota for their recent Pro Day. All different regions of the country than we’ve tracked over the years. Aside from a PSAC Regional Pro Day in Pennsylvania one year, we’ve never spotted Gorscak north of Tennessee. Bruener was always out west.
So what’s changed? It’s the front office order. Dan Colbert is no longer an area scout. He’s now the Director of College Scouting, a promotion in title and role. So someone has to replace his region and it seems Gorscak has flown north. For Bruener, I’m not sure why he’s changed locations. It does appear Senior Scouting Assistant Kelvin Fisher is now working out West so I suppose that’s forced Bruener to go somewhere else. We’ve only spotted him once so we’ll need a little more data there. Same with Petett, who received a promotion and may no longer “just’ be an area scout. I’m not sure who has replaced him.
Chris Watts is new to the organization, brought on after Khan and Andy Weidl were promoted and hired last year. He played his college ball at Langston University in Oklahoma and he was a longtime Southwest Area Scout for the New York Giants. He was at Louisiana Tech’s Pro Day and appears to be back in his role scouting that territory, replacing Gorscak. Maybe he’ll work Florida, too. Those schools haven’t yet had their Pro Days.
It’s all a domino effect. One guy replaces another and then someone must replace him. And it’s just one of the many changes that come along with a new GM. Scouts go, new ones are hired, roles get shifted. I don’t love the idea of changing roles of longtime scouts like Gorscak and Bruener, their relationships with the people at the school’s they’ve been to are important to reliably gather information. I want Gorscak talking to the same strength coach he’s known for years. Or the same security guy or liaison for a college. But perhaps there’s a benefit for these guys to scout someone new, refresh things for themselves, and Gorscak and Bruener are smart and trusted guys who can pick up a new region without much issue.
Pro Days run through the end of the month and we’ll keep updating our tracker to see how the whole group has come together.