If there was a move made by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2021 NFL Draft which made fans give a collective, “Huh?” it would have been the team trading a 2022 4th round pick to the Miami Dolphins to move into the 5th round and take Isaiahh Loudermilk from Wisconsin.
Following the team on Twitter, you could see tweets wondering what in the world the Steelers were doing. Not only were fans unsure of the pick, but also the position of defensive line is considered one of the deepest on the roster.
Why would the Steelers need to add to that position group?
To this day, of the nine draft picks the Steelers made during the three day process, it is Loudermilk who every stops and wonders why the move was made. To answer those questions, it is worth looking back at defensive line coach Karl Dunbar’s comments to the media after the pick.
The reason the Steelers took Loudermilk, and traded into the 5th round to do so, was his versatility.
“Isaiahh [Loudermilk] is a defensive lineman. When I say defensive line, he’s going to play everything from a five technique to nose.”
In other words, he fits exactly what the Steelers want to see in one of their defensive linemen.
“I think he fits the mold for what we want to do here in Pittsburgh.” Dunbar said. “He’s a big strapping young man and I know he lost some weight to do his pro day, but around about 285, 290, he can play a 4-I down over the guards when we go in our sub package, and he can push the middle of the pocket. To get a kid with this kid of size and this kind of height in the 5th round, I think it’s a really good get for the Steelers.”
What the Steelers saw in Loudermilk, that many other teams might not have seen, was his versatility. His ability to play both end/tackle positions, as well as the nose. Not only that, but he could be utilized in those specific sub packages where the Steelers limit the amount of defensive linemen they have on the field.
“I think that’s what it was all about. His versatility really helped him get picked for this team. The only bad thing about him, he’s going to come here and won’t be able to wear number 97.” Dunbar joked considering Cam Heyward wears No. 97.
The Steelers’ defensive line depth chart is full, and adding Loudermilk to the equation certainly sends a message to some of the fringe players on the depth chart. When the Steelers make an aggressive play, even for a 5th round pick, to take a defensive linemen, certain players are put on notice. Players like Isaiah Buggs, Carlos Davis and Henry Mondeaux. In other words, there will be some serious competition along the defensive line this offseason.
But to Dunbar, competition isn’t always a bad thing. To him, the more the merrier.
“I come from the south and they say defensive linemen are just like pretty women. There’s not a lot of them, but everybody wants them, and when you find a big guy like that and you want to get him on your team, I think that’s thing you do. Mike T and Kevin Colbert did a good job of getting us some talent.”
When you look at the depth along the defensive line, Loudermilk might not be an immediate impact player. Nonetheless, Dunbar sees his future, and being a player who can lessen the load on veteran defensive linemen like Cam Heyward, Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu.
“I think Tyson [Alualu], Cam [Heyward], [Stephon] Tuitt, they do a really good job of taking care of their bodies and playing well. You know, Isaiah Buggs, Carlos Davis, Henry Mondeaux, all of those young guys, they’re backing up for a reason and they try to give us quality reps. So, I think the more competition we can get in that room, the better it’d be for everybody because you want your guys fresh, especially playing 17 games this year.”
Until Loudermilk, who will wear No. 92 this preseason, actually suits up and plays some snaps and proves his worth, there will always be questions surrounding him being the target they chose when trading into the 5th round. It will be up to the former Wisconsin badger to not just solidify his spot on the team, but to make fans realize the Steelers front office didn’t make a poor decision by making the move to get him.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the black and gold as they prepare for the upcoming 2021 regular season.