Steelers Draft Map: Location of top pick in every NFL Draft under Mike Tomlin

Mike Tomlin doesn't draft players out west often with his first pick, and here's the proof.

2018 NFL Draft
2018 NFL Draft / Tom Pennington/GettyImages

Every NFL team has their draft trends. If you study a team enough, you find out the size thresholds they value at certain positions, athletic testing numbers that are important to them, and how much things like college experience and production matter. The Pittsburgh Steelers are no exception.

The longer I've studied this team, the easier it is to see certain things that they look for when it comes to the NFL Draft. These were particularly glaring during the Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert era. By the end of the pre-draft process, it has been very easy to narrow their first-round selection down to two or three players.

One of these draft trends has to do with the geographical location of Pittsburgh's first-round picks. During the first 17 years of the Tomlin era, the Steelers have only drafted one player in the first round in the western half of the country. This player was David DeCastro all the way back in 2012.

It's worth noting that the Steelers did not have a first-round pick in 2020 after trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick, but their top draft selection that year, Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool, was unsurprisingly from the eastern scouting region.

Mike Tomlin and the front office have been very comfortable taking players from their own scouting region and rarely do they travel out west on their pre-draft scouting trail. (Here's the Pittsburgh Steelers full draft history).

Based on history since 2007, there's almost no chance the Steelers take a player in the first round if the head coach or general manager is not on hand to see them and meet with them at their Pro Day. The fact that the Steelers tend to stay east of the Mississippi River when scouting the Pro Day trail means that their odds of taking a player out west in the first round are always slim.

Of course, there's an argument to be made as to why they do this. Most of the teams from the SEC -- widely regarded as NCAA Football's best conference -- are in the far east of the United States. Pittsburgh's scouting region is also home to the ACC and most of the Big 10.

HIstory suggests Steelers won't draft a player from out west in Round 1

On the flip side, history suggests that the Steelers cross a lot of first-round prospects off their list. They have only taken one player from the Pac-12 in the first round over the past 17 years and they have not taken a single Big 12 player in the first round over this span.

If this geographical drafting trend holds true in the 2024 NFL Draft, it means that players like Iowa CB Cooper DeJean, Oregon OT Taliese Fuaga, Washington OT Troy Fautanu, Oklahoma OT Tyler Guyton, Texas WR Adonai Mitchell, and Oregon C Jackson Powers-Johnson will not be Pittsburgh's first-round selection this year.

Trends are made to be broken. It's important to consider a key factor: this is a new front office regime with Omar Khan and assistant GM Andy Weidl running the show. These two may have no interest in sticking with the same scouting and draft trends that Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert did for so many years.

At the same time, Mike Tomlin is still here and he has a big say in what happens in the organization. It's a bizarre trend, but until it changes, it's probably safe to assume that the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't drafting a player from the western United States in the first round.