The Pittsburgh Steelers have met with a lot of prospects, both formally and informally, and the vast majority of these meetings won’t be made public. The only way the general public knows of said meetings are if the players tell reporters who they have met with, and who they are planning on meeting with.
So far, the only known meetings the Steelers have had at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine would be with offensive players (see the full list HERE). But that changed on Thursday, and beyond, as the team started to talk with defenders.
Per Brian Batko, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Michigan linebacker Josh Uche spoke with the Steelers, but mainly about Devin Bush. He had some great words regarding what it would mean to play with Bush again, and for a legendary organization like the Steelers.
And speaking of edge guys, Boise State’s Curtis Weaver said he has a formal interview planned with the Steelers. Kevin Colbert spoke Tuesday about how much they like this class of pass rushers. pic.twitter.com/mFbhQPQt3k— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) February 27, 2020
On the flip side, Batko also reports Boise State’s Curtis Weaver has a formal meeting with Pittsburgh set up for the coming days.
A local product, Khaleke Hudson, spoke with media and said while he hasn’t had a formal interview with the Steelers, he has talked with them both at the Scouting Combine and at the Senior Bowl.
McKeesport native and inside linebacker Khaleke Hudson watched a lot of Michigan teammate Devin Bush last year with his hometown team (even though he didn’t grow up a Steelers fan)— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) February 27, 2020
Hudson said he has talked with the Steelers both here at the combine and at the senior bowl. pic.twitter.com/iFkCvOU8sT
Michigan’s Khaleke Hudson of McKeesport has met informally with Steelers here at the combine and also at the Senior Bowl. pic.twitter.com/b61j6VK6bg— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) February 27, 2020
To give you a better idea of what all these players bring to the table, here is a quick synposis of each, per their NFL.com Draft Profiles:
Uche (pronounced OOH-chay) did not start any games for the Wolverines in his first three years with the team — not even when he earned honorable mention All-Big Ten notice as a junior after racking up seven sacks (among 15 total tackles). He finally started nine of 13 games played as a senior, garnering a second-team all-conference nod with a team-leading 8.5 sacks among his 35 tackles, 11.5 for loss (also posted two pass breakups and two forced fumbles). He played in four games as a reserve his true freshman year (four tackles) and in 10 contests the following season (three tackles, one sack).
Balancing Uche’s skill set and athletic potential against his inexperience and lack of instincts makes him a challenging evaluation. He’s unlikely to find sustained success as a situational rusher, but it should be in play for a team to turn loose his rush instincts and agility inside the pocket as a blitzer. He plays with closing burst, can tackle and is smoother in coverage than expected, but the difference in becoming a pro linebacker instead of a short-term, hybrid athlete will depend largely upon improving his second-level instincts and finding an eclectic defensive mind to unlock his potential.
The Broncos pulled Weaver out of the Long Beach area and have been happy with his play since he arrived on campus. After redshirting his first season, Weaver was named a 2017 Freshman All-American after ranking sixth in the FBS with 11 sacks (33 total tackles, 13 for loss, one interception). He earned his second straight first-team All-Mountain West honor in 2018 after leading Boise State with 15 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks among his 43 total tackles in 13 starts. Word spread about his talent during 2019, and the accolades piled up: second-team Associated Press All-American, first-team All-Mountain West, MWC Defensive Player of the Year, Ted Hendricks Award finalist. Weaver led Boise State and finished among the national leaders with 18.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks (52 total tackles, one interception, three pass breakups).
Stand-up end whose production as a pass rusher must be balanced out by his below-average ability and athleticism in stopping the run. Weaver is a naturally instinctive counter-rusher who uses synchronized hands/feet to attack both inside and outside edges as a rusher, but his lack of explosiveness and athletic traits could dull his rush production against NFL offensive tackles. He plays with football intelligence, but his level of NFL success could be determined by whether his skill can overcome below-average explosiveness.
Khaleke (pronounced kuh-LEAK) Hudson’s skill set filled the Wolverines’ Viper position, one of those hybrid safety/linebacker positions now prevalent in college football, to a tee. He led Michigan with 102 tackles (3.5 for loss, two sacks along with three pass breakups and a blocked kick) in 2019, garnering second-team All-Big Ten notice. He was an honorable mention all-conference pick in 2018 after starting 11 of 13 games played (44 tackles, 3.5 for loss, two sacks). The former three-star recruit and Pittsburgh Press-Gazette High School Player of the Year in 2015 out of McKeesport had a bigger year, statistically speaking, as a sophomore when he received a third-team all-conference nod (82 tackles, 17.5 for loss, eight sacks, two interceptions, nine pass breakups). Hudson tied an NCAA record that year with eight tackles for loss against Minnesota. He played in all 13 games as a reserve and on special teams as a true freshman (eight tackles, one pass breakup).
Undersized safety turned linebacker who summons toughness and spunk to counterbalance his lack of traits. The production has been fairly impressive in two of the last three seasons, but he’s quicker than fast and his range is limited. Hudson’s lack of size shows up near the line of scrimmage and he’s not as sticky in coverage as he needs to be. His talent for blocking punts should garner attention, but may not be enough to overcome deficiencies at linebacker or safety.
What are your thoughts on the players the Steelers have met with thus far? How about these trio of defenders, even though not all have been formal interviews? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!