INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – After not being on the field here at Lucas Oil Stadium for the NFL Scouting Combine the past two years, Steelers defensive line coach Karl Dunbar took his familiar position again Thursday night running defensive linemen through drills.
Dunbar was one of several Steelers assistant coaches who are running prospects through the on-field drills here at the Combine, something he wasn't able to do last year because of a knee issue and two years ago after COVID caused the league to cancel the annual event.
Dunbar, who is joined on the field this year by defensive backs coach Grady Brown, assistant outside linebackers coach Denzel Martin, wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson and assistant offensive line coach Isaac Williams, said he likes to be on the field with the prospects because it offers a chance to see what they're like as a person.
"I like the interaction with the guys," said Dunbar, who has typically been on the field here throughout his 16 years as an NFL assistant.
"You get a feel for them live and in person, being themselves. I think sometimes in those 15-minute meetings we have (with the prospects), a kid can lie to you. He knows what to say, what not to say. But when they're out there competing and hanging around the other guys, you get to see how they react to guys they don't know."
The league's coaches get together and decide what drills they want to see the prospects run through. For Dunbar and Martin, who handle the Steelers' pass rushers, that meant taking the defensive linemen and edge rushers through change-of-direction drills Thursday night.
"When you're down there getting a feel for it, you get to see the guys react live and in color," Dunbar said. "That's the part I enjoy.
"It's better than sitting there in the stands and watching it like a fan. I'd rather go and get my hands dirty."
That's why Dunbar wants to be on the field whenever he is at the Combine.
And it's not just the coaches who take part. Steelers scout Mark Gorczak, for example, has been the starter for the 40-yard dash testing for years.
"Every year teams put up guys they want to go down. That's how we do it. Every team gets so many guys who can go down. We had five coaches this year. It's good to get that chance."
• Quarterbacks are often what drive the way drafts are graded. Have a good quarterback class and many look at that draft as one that is better than one that doesn't have top talent at the position – regardless of the quality or depth at the other positions.
This year's quarterback class has some question marks surrounding it.
But despite that, there could be three, or even four, quarterbacks taken in the top 10 picks this year.
Alabama's Bryce Young is a candidate to be the first-overall pick in this draft, though questions linger about his overall size. He's listed at 6-foot, 194 pounds.
Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, said concerns about his size are unfounded.
"I've been this size, respectfully, my whole life," Young said Friday regarding those questions. "I know who I am. I know what I can do. For me, it's fair (concerns). Everyone can speculate and ask when the questions are necessary. I'm going to continue to control what I can control. I'm going to keep working my hardest to improve myself at the position. I'm confident in myself. I know what I can do. I'm just excited to be at the next level."
For Kentucky's Will Levis, who had just 19 touchdown passes against 10 interceptions in 2022, the questions surround his consistency.
But the Penn State transfer is brimming with confidence and can't wait to throw on Saturday.
"Because I've got a cannon," Levis said. "I want to show it off."
The other top two prospects at the position are Ohio State's C.J. Stroud and Florida's Anthony Richardson.
For the Steelers, who got their quarterback in last year's draft in Kenny Pickett, the position doesn't take on the same level of importance as it does for other teams.
But even having a young quarterback in place doesn't stop speculation.
The Chicago Bears have Justin Fields at the position, having used a high first-round pick on the former Ohio State star just two years ago.
That, however, didn't stop someone from asking Young if he'd like the Bears to take him in this draft with the first-overall pick. Stroud backed up Fields at Ohio State and the two remain close.
"I don't want to go there. That's his team," Stroud said. "I've got to do my thing and I've got to go build my legacy. He texted me yesterday morning. Me and him are brothers for life."
• Defensive back workouts took place Friday, and the early returns were impressive.
Two of the top cornerbacks in this draft, Oregon's Christian Gonzalez and Penn State's Joey Porter Jr., both checked off the boxes when it came to having the size and speed necessary to play in the NFL.
Gonzalez checked in at 6-foot-1, 197 pounds and then ran a blistering unofficial 4.38-second 40-yard dash. He also had a 41 ½-inch vertical jump and a standing broad jump of 11-feet, 1-inch.
Porter, meanwhile, measured 6-foot-2 ½, 193 pounds with 34-inch arms. He ran an unofficial 40 time of 4.46 seconds with a 35-inch vertical jump to go with a standing broad jump of 10-feet, 9-inches.
• Michigan cornerback D.J. Turner became the 18th player since 2000 to record a 40-yard dash of less than 4.3 seconds when he posted a time of 4.27 seconds Friday.
• Tennessee edge rusher Byron Young was one of the big winners from Thursday night's late workouts.
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Young blazed through a 40 in 4.43 seconds and also showed off a 38-inch vertical jump.
• Former Pitt wide receiver Jordan Addison, who transferred to USC last year after quarterback Kenny Pickett left for the NFL -- and the Steelers -- would love to be reunited with his former college quarterback.
"If we reunite, that'd be good," said Addison on Friday. "That'd be real cool, (a) real easy transition. Come get me."
Addison won the Biletnikoff Award after the 2021 season while working with Pickett when he caught 100 passes for nearly 1,600 yards with 17 touchdowns. His numbers at USC last season weren't nearly as gaudy, as he had 59 receptions for 875 yards and eight touchdowns.
Still, to reunite Pickett and Addison, the Steelers would likely have to select him with one of their top two selections -- at No. 17 or 32. And that might not be in the cards for the team.
"I think you're always looking at things like that, but given the offseason that you have and the time guys spend together, I think the transition of new receivers trying to get acclimated to quarterbacks is not a hard process," Steelers GM Omar Khan said this week. "But Jordan Addison, he's a really good football player."