Steelers Beat Writer

Dale Lolley is a contributor to the Observer-Reporter and has been covering the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1993.

Mike Tomlin

Brook Ward/For the Observer-Reporter

The presence of Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin at pro days means little.

You can expect to see the Steelers back at Saint Vincent College at the end of July. Or at least that’s the hope of the team moving forward.

The NFL didn’t permit its teams to leave their facilities for training camp last year because of the pandemic, ending a string of Steelers training camps at Saint Vincent College that stretched back more than 50 years.

It was – in a word – weird.

Instead, the Steelers held their training camp at Heinz Field. A limited number of media were permitted into the stadium to watch on a daily basis.

And it was, here’s that word again, weird to sit in the stands in a stadium that holds more than 60,000 people with 10 or so other media members while 100 players and coaches ran around on the field.

It will be great to get back to the confines of Saint Vincent College, even if there aren’t any fans permitted to attend. That part of the equation isn’t written in stone yet, and the Steelers are hopeful that they’ll be permitted to have at least some fans attend the practices.

  • Art Rooney II also is hopeful the Steelers will be permitted to have a full stadium when the Steelers’ season begins in September. Of course, that will be up to the state more so than it will be the NFL.
  • Will the last scholarship player who is on his way to the transfer portal please turn out the lights at the Peterson Events Center?

Abdoul Karim Coulibaly is the latest to head for the door. And with the news that Justin Champagnie is at least putting his name into the draft to test the NBA waters, the Panthers face the possibility that they could have a whole new starting five next season.

As of Tuesday, there were 573 players in the college basketball transfer portal, the Panthers just might find themselves with plenty of ready-made talent.

That there are 573 players in the transfer portal before the NCAA tournament is even completed shows that this might just be a bit of an issue for college basketball.

  • Penn State defensive end Jayson Oweh measured in at 6-5, 257 pounds on Thursday at the school’s pro day. He then ran a 4.37-second, 40-yard dash. That time is unofficial given the nature of these pro days, but that’s big and fast.

Here’s the rub. Oweh appeared in seven games for the Nittany Lions last season. I say appeared in because he didn’t do all that much.

In seven games, Oweh failed to record a sack, though he did have 38 tackles.

It just goes to show that just being big or fast or strong doesn’t always equate to being a great football player. Now, that doesn’t mean some team won’t take a chance on Oweh in the first round of next month’s draft.

Athletes with his size and speed don’t grow on trees. But shouldn’t production count for something?

  • Every time Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert show up at a pro day, as they did Thursday at Penn State, it creates a stir.

And immediately, Twitter lights up that Tomlin and Colbert are there to see whatever first-round prospect that school happens to have.

Here’s the thing, because there was no NFL Scouting Combine this year, Tomlin and Colbert are going to whatever school happens to have the most draftable prospects. They’re trying to get the most bang for their buck.

So, given that the other pro days held Thursday were at football factories such as Georgia Southern, Massachusetts, North Texas, San Diego State and Western Michigan, where could they be expected to show up?

Sure, Ole Miss, SMU and Tennessee also held their pro days on Thursday, but they didn’t have as many prospects available as Penn State happens to have.

It does make you wonder, however, how Penn State could have so many prospects that could get draft this year and yet somehow began the 2020 season by losing its first five games.

  • Maybe it’s the same reason an athletic freak such as Oweh could play seven games and not accidentally knock a quarterback to the ground just once.

If it was just about having talent, Michigan would be a big winner each season. Jim Harbaugh seems to have three or four players selected early in the draft each year.

And yet Harbaugh has one fewer win against Ohio State than Oral Roberts, which knocked off the Buckeyes’ basketball team in the NCAA Tournament last week.

Coaching and scheme seem to matter just a little bit.

Dale Lolley covers the Steelers for and writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.

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