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The Steelers 1979 season begins here>>>

Steelers Scouting Philosophy Leaves No Stone Unturned
Jim O’Brien - Pittsburgh Press May 2 1979

AP photo of Chuck NollThe Shades were drawn tight as the brain trust of the Steelers sequestered itself in a dark room in the bowels of Three Rivers Stadium at 7am last Saturday. This was serious stuff and underground movements anywhere in the world couldn’t be any more zealous about their missions.

The projector was turned on, a stream of white light shot through the darkness filling the silver screen in the front of the room with fast-paced black and white images.

To see their eyes bulge, the Steeler coaches appeared to have latched onto the latest blue film from France or some crusty celluloid from the archives of the Art Cinema.

No, the NFL draft of college players will be held tomorrow and the Steelers were studying, cramming wouldn’t be the correct word here considering the scouting department’s year-long efforts for this crucial test.

The Steelers were studying film, looking for flaws as well as strengths in the top-rated prospects, reviewing their notes, updating their ideas about the draft, and settling on their strategy.

Art Rooney Jr., one of the club’s vice presidents and the man who overseas the scouting department wants the most up to date information available on anyone the Steelers might seek in the draft or in a trade, if the team decide to take that route.

He wants to avoid any fiascos such as the deal with the Giants a year ago which brought nothing but excess tonnage in the form of John Hicks, recently retired from the NFL at the age of 28.

“We went with information that was three of four years old in that one,” recalled Rooney, “going back to what our scouts said about him when he came out of Ohio State. You should learn by your mistakes. Now we insist on the latest word.”

With that in mind, the Steelers scouts and coaches have been pooling their information more intensively the last two weeks. “In BLESTO, we have fourteen full time guys and we have five of our own scouts full-time,” related Rooney. “With the draft so late (May rather than January) we sent our scouts all over the place again to check out the players and have them work out for us.

So, we have triple-tier scouting now, whereas in the old days we were lucky to get one line on the college prospects.”

This explains the presence in Boston yesterday of Coach Noll and his assistants Dick Hoak and George Perles. 
Noll’s philosophy on the draft is etched on the walls of the Steelers office and at least on the brains of the team’s officials.

“We have always gone in with the idea of getting the best football player available. We feel that if we can upgrade our team at any spot we’re going to help ourselves. So, we will try to make a judgement on who is the best when it comes our time to pick 28th and last on the first round and we will draft him.

It doesn’t matter whether we need someone at a position or not because you make a mistake in the draft when you panic and say, ‘We haven’t someone at this spot.’ Then you draft someone who is not as good as someone else and that guy makes all-league someplace else. We are interested in drafting the best football player.”

Jim O'Brien has written many books on the Steelers and Pittsburgh sports teams. You can find his website on JimObrienSportsauthor.com.

 

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This 1979 season last updated May 17th 2019.

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The Steelers 1977 season in full.
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