Let’s talk about the best ILB fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers right now. No, it is not Devin White or Mack Wilson, even if they would fit well into the system. Meet NC State’s ILB Germaine Pratt, who I am personally extremely high on and would like to see the Steelers grab. He is a converted safety, and that should speak well to what he can do as a whole from the LB position. So, here he is.
Weight: 245 lbs
Projected 40: 4.57
Courtesy of SportsReference.com, the Draft Network
Pratt excels as a LB because he is fit for the modern defensive scheme. There is almost no one as fluid as him in coverage, especially when he is dropping back to cover the middle of the field. The Steelers do not have the type of athlete or the fluid athlete that Pratt would be. L.J. Fort is a nice player for sure, and a great complement, but Pratt could take on the main MACK role with plays like this.
Hello Germaine Pratt. Even if this a duck, Pratt stayed with a slot receiver through a damn near double move. Dude is fluid as hell and has tremendous ball skills for a LB. I’m a big fan of his game. #DraftTwitter pic.twitter.com/lfk8E6FalK— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 9, 2019
This play illustrates that point well. Pratt is lined up inside of the slot here, and actually gets turned around a bit here, but the fluid hip flip allows him to recover easily, and he has great mirroring technique to make up his ground. This is a guy who can cover the whole middle of the field and move with WRs in the open field. That is a fantastic accomplishment. And then the ability to high point that football and get the interception is something not many LBs can do. I do not usually talk about ball skills and LBs, but Pratt has some of the most impressive ball skills I have seen at the LB position in a long while. Again, though, that is the virtue of being a converted safety.
NC State ILB Germaine Pratt is amazing. This here is a clinic on how to sift through traffic and he does so well. Dude is agile, has range, and is a natural Coverage LB. This dude is legit as all hell. Love the way he plays. If your team needs a LB, root for Pratt. #DraftTwitter pic.twitter.com/oO7a2nfa1V— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) January 6, 2019
The concern with moving Pratt from Safety to ILB would obviously be how he plays the run. The coverage skills and processing skills are already there because he played in the box, but how does he play in between the gaps? Turns out he does it pretty well.
Here, Pratt makes a great play by baiting the tackle inside and using his leverage to throw him outside. Fantastic gap discipline and sifting through the traffic there by Pratt, and he has some serious range, even if it is not shown off here. Coming downhill and reading that at the goal line is never an easy play, but when you are able to do it and have coverage skills, you should be a hot commodity.
Every time I watched N.C. States defense, Germaine Pratt always impresses. He's a former safety who moved to linebacker. Reads and react so well and gets to this swing so quickly. Over pursues but recovers well. Love it! pic.twitter.com/XFmB5Tttfd— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) March 19, 2018
Closing speed anyone? Processing? Boom.
Pratt knows how to sniff out a play easily and make a play out there by flying over there. He overpursues it, and it is a big knock on him that he has to get better on, but in 2018, he curtailed that and his missed tackles fell from 16 to 5, which is an amazing improvement. In other words, he is only improving and is fixing his issues. And with that speed and processing, he is a game changer in the middle of the field that teams will need desperately.
Yeah, the overpursuit issue is a thing. He tailored it back, but it still rears its ugly head a bit too often for my liking. The good thing is he showed upward progression, so it would be nice to see that continue. While I showed you a video of fluid-hipped Germaine Pratt, he does not always have that fluidity to him. His hips can absolutely get super tight at times. Usually, he is a good enough processor to not let this happen, but it does happen at times. Lastly, he needs to bulk up big time. He can come screaming downhill and just make the play often, but in order to shed blocks better, he will need to live in the gym this offseason.
Fit with the Steelers
With the new base package, per Mike Tomlin, moving toward sub packages, that should signal that the Steelers will start to drift away from their standard 3-4 and go to 2-4-5 and 3-3-5 packages as a sub-unit based defense. In that, Pratt and Fort would be ideal. Pratt was a fantastic sub package defender in college, and looks to be a good 3 down ILB so be as his play strength improves.
The Steelers are not going to be happy with the weak ILB class as a whole, especially with the top LBs seemingly out of their reach. However, if they wanted to spend their second round pick on a LB who can do everything you would want a LB to do and more, Pratt seems to fit the bill, and not just because he is a good player, but because of the scheme fit.