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5 for Friday: More coaches in the Hall of Fame? Sure

Dick Vermeil was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2022, becoming the 28th head coach to achieve the status.

If Vermeil has his way, there would be a lot more coaches joining him.

As part of his induction speech last August, Vermeil mentioned seven head coaches he feels belong enshrined at Canton, Ohio, in addition to himself. In an interview with the Denver Gazette last week, he doubled down on that, saying, "I would be in favor of any time they put in a coach, they put a deserving deceased coach in with a comparable or better record. Otherwise, you're going to keep having more deceased coaches to try to get in."

Don Coryell will be inducted as part of the 2023 Hall of Fame Class.

But Vermeil believes Mike Holmgren, Dan Reeves, Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Shanahan, Tom Coughlin and George Seifert also are among those deserving.

A strong case could be made for those six, as well as Coryell. And of the coaches currently coaching in the league, Mike Tomlin, Bill Belichick, Andy Reid, Pete Carroll and John Harbaugh all already have strong cases or are shoe-ins when the time comes.

Vermeil is correct.

There have been 518 head coaches in NFL history. But just 28 are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That means just .05 percent of those who have been a head coach in the NFL have been enshrined.

Of that group of 518, only 30 have won 100 or more games. Now, some of that is because teams just didn't play as many games in the early stages of the league.

Photos of Head Coach Mike Tomlin.

There have been 34 head coaches who won at least 60 percent of their games – which seems to be a pretty good benchmark. But of that group, nine coached five seasons or fewer. Longevity should matter, as well.

Some 35 different coaches have won Super Bowls. Of that group, 15 are already in the Hall of Fame.

There are 26 coaches who won multiple league championships, whether that be in the Super Bowl era or prior to the Super Bowl. Of that group, Coughlin, Seifert, Shanahan and former Steelers head coach Buddy Parker are the only ones not in the Hall of Fame. Parker won championships with the Detroit Lions.

So, there is some work to do with coaches getting into the Hall of Fame.

But adding two in per year doesn't seem to be the right way of righting that wrong. For many years, coaches were all but ignored in the process.

That is no longer the case. It will take a few years for the Hall to catch up with coaches who deserve to get in, but catch up it will.

• It flew a little under the radar at the NFL Annual Meetings a couple of weeks ago, but the league did mandate that Guardian Caps, those large foam pieces that fit over the helmet, be worn again at all training camp practices this year. But the league also now will mandate they be used regular season and postseason practice in which there is contact.

In addition, all positions with the exception of kickers, punters, quarterbacks, wide receivers and defensive backs will be required to wear the caps.

This won't be anything new for the Steelers. Tomlin mandated them for his players starting in minicamp last season – even though they didn't have to wear them at that time – and a number of players continued to wear the caps once the regular season began, even though they weren't forced to do so.

According to NFL studies, if one player is wearing a Guardian Cap, the cap absorbs 11 to 12 percent of a hit. If two players are wearing the caps and have helmet-to-helmet contact, the force of the impact is reduced by 20 percent.

• The Steelers continued to build their bench this past week with the signing of defensive lineman Armon Watts.

These type of signings, which the Steelers have made a bunch of this season, aren't going to move the needle for most fans. They likely had to look up Watts to find out who he was.

But the signing of veteran players with starting experience in their background pays off in a big way when injuries start to hit.

There's a huge difference between being forced to rely on a rookie or otherwise untested player when a starter inevitably goes down and being able to put someone in the lineup who isn't going to be overwhelmed by, say, making a spot start in Baltimore. The game isn't going to be too big for them.

And, perhaps more importantly, if those bench players take an extra five snaps a game off the plate of, say, Cam Heyward, that's not a bad thing, either.

Heyward has played in at least 75 percent of the Steelers' defensive snaps since 2013. He's been incredibly durable. But he also turns 34 in May.

He continues to play high-quality snaps for the Steelers. But it would behoove them to cut his snap count back, even just a little, to make sure he's at his best after a 17-game regular season.

In his case, less could be more moving forward.

• This year's NFL Draft is a deep one, especially when it comes to players who should come in and contribute early.

How deep?

• Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

Realize that ESPN's Matt Miller and Scouts Inc., graded 368 players for this year's draft and some 34 received a grade of 90 or better. There were 64 players who received a grade of 80 or better.

What's that mean? According to their grading system, that means there are 34 players who rate as prospects with "rare" talents who should be considered in the first round. It also means there are 64 players who are at least "outstanding" prospects who should be considered no worse than potential second-round picks.

Last year, ESPN had 23 players graded at 90 or higher. Fortunately for the Steelers, that included Kenny Pickett, who had a 90 grade.

There were 65 players who received a grade of 80 or higher per ESPN's 2022 rankings. That included wide receiver George Pickens, whom the Steelers selected in the second round. Pickens had an overall grade of 83, the same grade given to defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal. Leal was the Steelers' third-round selection.

In 2021, there were 25 players with a grade of 90 or better, but just 62 who got a rating of 80 or higher. The 2020 draft had 23 players with a grade of 90 or above. In 2019, it was just 20. You get the idea.

That's why it's great for the Steelers to have two picks in the top 32 selections and three in the top 49 this year. There's a great opportunity for them to get three high-quality prospects.

This draft also goes 100 players deep in those graded at 70 or above.

The previous couple of drafts have been a little deeper when it comes to that grouping, but this year is stronger at the top in terms of quality depth.

If you trust the Scouts Inc. rankings.

• The draft is now less than two weeks away. Soon after that, the schedule will be released.

And, of course, in the weeks after the draft, teams will hold their rookie minicamps and then OTAs will begin.

That means the start of the 2023 season is really less than two weeks away.

If that doesn't get your juices flowing, well, I've got nothing else for you.

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