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The COVID-19 pandemic has altered a lot of things since March of last year. The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine was able to be conducted as normal last year in late February, but after that all NFL activities were done virtually up until the start of training camp in late July.
This year there's no Combine in Indianapolis and the only chance evaluators will be able to meet prospects will be virtually at their pro day, or if they're allowed to attend in-person, depending on the capacity a school allows at a pro day. Only three representatives from each team can attend a given pro day.
Despite the challenges, Steelers president Art Rooney II thinks this year will be harder for evaluators than last year without having the Combine.
"It's not like last year in the sense that we had the Combine last year," Rooney told Bob Labriola of Steelers.com about 2020. "That really is a key piece of the puzzle in terms of putting the evaluations together, and then we had some Pro Days. I'm a little more concerned about this year than I was about last year. Last year everybody was talking about the draft itself and doing that virtually, which was a challenge, but really the important part of the draft is the preparation. This year is going to be a much bigger challenge in getting the information you'd like to have, being without a Combine, being with a limited number of Pro Days and not even sure all of the schools are going to have Pro Days, plus dealing with players who opted out of the 2020 (college) season. There are many more challenges in preparing for this daft than there were last year."
In January, the league released a memo regarding the changing format of the traditional combine. The league said it would work with individual schools to achieve consistency in the drills and testing that takes place with each NFL team gaining access of video for the workouts. Schools also will be asked to conduct virtual media availabilities with combine invitees to help "promote" the prospects and the 2021 NFL Draft.
In addition, the NFL is currently working alongside club physicians and trainers to develop a way in which to obtain "comprehensive medical information on each of the invited prospects." In-person testing will be available for "a certain number of prospects" at designated locations, likely in early April.
Each club will be permitted to send one physician and one athletic trainer to conduct these in-person exams, which will likely be scheduled over a two or three-day period.
"We're still working on (how we're going to acquire the medical information), Rooney said. "I am concerned about what's going to happen with getting physicals and those kinds of things. That remains a bit of a question mark as we sit here today."
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert doesn't expect he and Mike Tomlin to attend their usual 15-20 pro days.
“I don’t anticipate us being able to do as many this year,” Colbert said. “But coach and I will be very selective on when and where we can get out and, hopefully, we can still get to the premium ones where there are as many good players as possible on a given team, and we try to cover that as best we can.
“We will get it covered comprehensively with all the scouts and some of the assistant coaches. But as far as coach and I, we will be more select this year, but only because we have to.”