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O-R Sports reporter Dale Lolley gets you the insider scoop on the NFL.

After hobnobbing around the NFL in the press boxes and sidelines, sports reporter Dale Lolley will let you know the insider scoop. Dale can also be heard on the Steelers radio network pre-game show prior to every game. Follow him on Twitter at dlolleyor.

Steelers’ visitors are key. But who are the smoke screens?

April 2, 2017
A Pittsburgh Steelers helmut sits on the turf before an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

NFL teams can officially begin their 30 visits with college prospects starting Monday.

And if you’re a fan of the Steelers, you’d be well-served to pay close attention to the players the team brings in.

Why?

Quite simply, keeping a close eye on who is brought in will give you an idea of who the Steelers will take.

Last year, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, safety Sean Davis and offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins were among the Steelers’ 30 official visitors.

The year before Senquez Golson, Sammie Coates, Doran Grant and Jesse James were invited to the UMPC Rooney Sports Complex.

That means that over the past two seasons, half of the Steelers’ draft picks have been among their visitors.

NFL teams, of course, bring in players for private visits for a number of reason.

Remember, each team gets 30, so some - at least the smart ones - will use a handful of smoke screens.

They have no intention of taking that guy, but they know a team or two behind them does covet him. So you bring him in, feign some interest and perhaps drum up a trade partner.

Others they want to do a check-up on a medical issue their doctors flagged, typically at the combine or at an on-campus workout.

For this reason, you might see a guy such as UCLA linebacker Takkarist McKinley on a lot of visit lists this year. Teams might want check on his injured shoulder to see how the surgery went.

Finally, there are those 10 to 15 players in which the team has a legitimate interest.

The trick is figuring out exactly which players belong on which list.

For the Steelers this year, the quarterbacks have been the smoke screen. Taking Ben Roethlisberger’s eventual successor just doesn’t make sense this year.

The safety position is another spot where the Steelers are putting up a smoke screen, in my opinion.

The Steelers just selected Davis in the second round of last year’s draft. And Mike Mitchell is solid at free safety, as well.

Robert Golden also gives them a backup capable of playing either spot, and, if as I expect, the Steelers take a cornerback early in this draft, William Gay could be slotted for a move to that spot.

Where would a highly drafted safety prospect fit in - unless that player also is capable of playing in the slot, a guy such as Budda Baker, for example.

But the Steelers have made no secret of meeting with some quarterback and safety prospects. Their true intention, however, is to add an outside linebacker, cornerback and running back among their first four picks.

So keep your eye on the ball when the visitors start trickling in this week. You might divine a thing or two.

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