Steelers interest in Zaven Collins seems like a smokescreen
By Andrew Falce
The rumors behind Collins being the target for the Steelers in the first seems to be more smoke than actual fire.
One of the most intriguing prospects in the upcoming draft has to be Zaven Collins from Tulsa. The linebacker is a hybrid type, as he plays a traditional standup linebacker role despite having the size and traits to be more of an edge. For the Steelers, he could serve a wide variety of roles if he were to be drafted by the team. He blew up his pro day, which has seemingly cemented his status as a first-round pick. Now, rumors are beginning to swirl that Collins is the actual target at pick 24.
While adding a chess piece like Collins wouldn’t be a worst-case scenario, it seems far fetched that he is the actual target for the Steelers. For starters, his instantaneous fit would have to be in question. Is Collins a true inside linebacker or would the team try to use him as a depth piece on the edge. Ultimately, this doesn’t seem like the biggest concern as Collins’ best fit is as an inside linebacker, but him being a tweener makes his fit as a pro in question.
Moving past his fit, the Steelers don’t really have a pressing need at inside linebacker. Vince Williams was brought back on a one-year deal, and there is little reason to believe that he will lose his starting role this season. He was almost dominant as a run-stuffer last year next to Devin Bush, and he seems primed to pick up where he left off. His age and contract status make it seem like his time with the team is winding down, but in all likelihood, Williams will resume his role as a starter.
Behind him, Robert Spillane will be the next man up. He impressed before his injury, and the team should have little concern with him being the primary backup. Sure, the remainder of the depth chart is filled with questions, but the top three options are fine. That makes it hard to believe the Steelers would go for Collins in the first.
The Steelers have not shown enough interest in Collins
The last nail in the coffin is the Steelers’ general lack of interest in Collins. While the team did meet with Collins over the zoom, they didn’t send a huge group of scouts to his pro day. The most notable name was the assistant outside linebackers coach Denzel Martin, not exactly a ringing endorsement for a potential top pick.
Typically, the Steelers prefer to have either Mike Tomlin or Kevin Colbert on hand to watch a prospect’s pro day. Neither of them being there is bad enough but add in that the only coach present was Martin and the interest really doesn’t seem there. Had Karl Dunbar, Jerry Olsavsky, or even defensive coordinator Dick Butler made their way out to Tulsa, the interest in Collins could be seen differently. The lack of coaches sent says otherwise.
While Collins seems like a fine prospect, it seems far-fetched that the Steelers take him in the first round. This seems more like a diversion tactic than anything, as teams actually interested in Collins may feel the need to move up ahead of the team to get him. This would in turn push other prospects down, and more specifically offensive options. Collins would be a good fit on this defense, but the Steelers having an interest in him seems more like smoke than an actual fire.