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Graham Barton Takes Key Step To Becoming Steelers Selection

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For Graham Barton, coming to Pittsburgh was probably just another pre-draft visit. One of many places he could go during next week’s NFL draft. It’s true. No one knows exactly how things will play out. But Barton visiting the Steelers was a huge step in believing his name will be on the card when the team turns in the 20th pick.

As we’ve written about, Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan’s lack of Pro Day trips this cycle, just four, makes it more likely than ever that the Steelers’ streak of drafting players whose Pro Day the head coach and GM personally attended ends. Still, it’s hard to think the team would make someone their first-round pick and face of a draft class without at least a visit. A long “get to you know” event that would take the place of a Pro Day trip, gaining similar benefit. Though Pittsburgh was at Georgia’s Pro Day last year, it also brought in OT Broderick Jones for a pre-draft visit.

Perhaps one shift under Khan is to make sure those picks come to the facility to meet more of the organization. At a Pro Day, you’re limited to whoever you take on your trip. And even though Pittsburgh tends to send the house for the big workouts, you still don’t get to bring your strength and conditioning coach, potentially your positional coaches, and even someone like team president Art Rooney II, a decision-maker who I’m sure likes getting to shake the hand of his potential first-round selection.

Prior to Tuesday, the Steelers’ only known contact with Barton was a formal NFL Scouting Combine interview. He was scheduled to attend the Senior Bowl, but an injury caused him to pull out, especially unfortunate knowing he would’ve been in line to receive plenty of center reps. 

But the “visit” box is checked. Taking Barton would create some projection but the Steelers desperately need a center. Barton has experience there, as a freshman in 2020, and he’s been working out at the position throughout the pre-draft process. At his Pro Day, he snapped during on-field drills as OC Arthur Smith, who played at North Carolina and knows ACC ball, watched. Barton will have size in the middle, great athleticism for the Steelers’ zone-based system, and the aggression and finish Pittsburgh’s looking for.

Had Barton somehow not been on the team’s visit list, it would’ve been the elephant in the room in projecting him as the team’s first-round pick. Frankly, it would’ve been difficult to include him. But he made his way in, the box is checked, a last obstacle to overcome as he becomes the potential favorite to be Pittsburgh’s top pick.

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