Since Mike Tomlin took over as head coach of the Steelers in 2007, Michigan players have always been on his NFL Draft radar. Here’s a look at his trends.
If you study any NFL team long enough, it’s not hard to pick up on their draft trends. Some teams tend to draft only Power 5 school players, some favor local products, and some draft based on statistical production or athletic traits. The Steelers have a checklist of things they look for, but Mike Tomlin is partial to players from the state of Michigan.
Yes, contrary to popular belief, it’s not just the University of Michigan Tomlin falls in love with during the draft season, it’s most NFL-talent producing schools in the whole state.
In fact, since 2015, Tomlin and Kevin Colbert have drafted 6 players from either Michigan, Michigan State, Central Michigan, and Western Michigan, according to Pro Football Reference. Take a look at this list:
Between Michigan schools (Michigan, MSU, Central Michigan, Western Michigan) the #Steelers have drafted 6 players since 2015:
L.T Walton (6th, 2015)
Keion Adams (7th, 2017)
Chuks Okorafor (3rd, 2018)
Devin Bush (1st, 2019)
Justin Layne (3rd, 2019)
Zach Gentry (5th, 2019)
— Tommy Jaggi (@TommyJaggi) March 29, 2020
Some of these players are still very early in their NFL careers, while others are hard to make a case for. L.T. Walton was a competent backup who wasn’t often called upon to contribute on defense, while Keion Adams stuck around for a few preseason in Pittsburgh, but never worked his way onto the roster. The verdict is still out on the other four players, but the Steelers have high hopes for players like Devin Bush, Justin Layne, and Chukwuma Okorafor.
The evidence of Tomlin’s love of Michigan doesn’t end here. Three of the best players he drafted since joining the team in 2007 have come from the state of Michigan.
Antonio Brown was a Central Michigan product in 2010, while Le’Veon Bell came out of Michigan State in 2013. In addition, LaMarr Woodley was Tomlin’s 2nd round pick in his first draft as a head coach of the Steelers in 2007. Like Bush, Woodley was once a Michigan Wolverine.
Interestingly enough, Tomlin is not from the state of Michigan, rather Virginia. While there is some evidence that he favors players from his hometown (Terrell Edmunds was his first-round pick out of Virginia Tech from 2018) there is far more evidence that suggests he can’t stay away from Michigan products.
This trend has only grown in recent years, and three players from the state of Michigan were drafted in 2019 alone under Tomlin.
While trends can change, it’s clear that Mike Tomlin shows a little extra favoritism to Michigan products. If a player is coming from the state of Michigan, expect him to be on Tomlin’s radar at some point in the NFL Draft.