Jordan Zumwalt having to play catch-up to those who got to attend OTAs

Joe Sargent

Because his class at UCLA had not yet graduated, Jordan Zumwalt was unable to attend the Steelers OTAs over the last couple of weeks. Despite studying his playbook as much as he could, the 6th round draft choice admits that missing OTAs has set his development back.

The NFL has a policy whereby if a rookie has not yet graduated from college, they are not allowed to participate in Organised Team Activities (OTAs).

This only affects certain players each year, such as Oregon State University's Markus Wheaton last season. He was drafted in the third round by the Steelers, but missed all of OTAs, something which undoubtedly stunted his growth and development during his rookie season.

This year the Steelers 6th round pick, linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, suffered the same problem as Markus Wheaton did one year ago, he was forced to sit out the Steelers OTAs because his class at UCLA had not yet graduated.

If anything, the situation has been worse for Zumwalt this year. Wheaton, a third round pick, was a virtual lock for a roster spot. Zumwalt has no such early draft choice protection, and will be up against what promises to be some very fierce competition at the linebacker spot during training camp.

Whilst he was unable to attend OTAs, he was still allowed to contact coaches and assistants whenever he wished, as well as consume as much of the playbook as he was able. Per Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune, Zumwalt made the most of that opportunity.

However, no matter how much he worked on learning his playbook, and no matter how much he conversed with the coaches, he was still at a disadvantage compared to the other rookies and players who attended OTAs.

"Yeah, I am a little bit behind, man," Zumwalt said following Tuesday's afternoon walkthrough at minicamp. "I am playing a little catch-up mentally."

"You learn a lot better when you are repping things out. I was just learning out of the book. When you learn out of the book, it is a little different because you aren't seeing the looks that everybody else is seeing."

This is a disadvantage Zumwalt could clearly do without, but given his reputation and work ethic, one that shouldn't bring him down too much.

Known as a fiery competitor and hard worker,Zumwalt's personality seems to be a good fit with the Steelers ethos. He stands a good chance to make the 53-man roster if he can crack a spot on special teams. Of course another avenue to make the roster could be through versatility. He played inside linebacker at UCLA, but will be practicing at outside during mini camp.

Zumwalt said that once he has a grasp on his role, the coaching staff plans to move him around a lot.

One things for sure, Zumwalt and his battle for a roster spot will be worth a watch come training camp.



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