In the 2021 NFL Draft the Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t slated to have a 5th round selection. As the draft went on in Day 3, the news broke across the television screen the Steelers had traded a 2022 4th round selection to the Miami Dolphins for Miami’s 5th round pick.
Steelers fans sat on the edge of their seat wondering who would be the team’s pick. The card came in, and fans heard the following stated, “...the Pittsburgh Steelers select Isaiahh Loudermilk, defensive tackle Wisconsin.”
Throughout the fan base you heard a collective, “Who?!”
Immediately, as the draft became an afterthought, you knew the team wasn’t going to abandon Loudermilk, but the thought of him seeing significant repetitions seemed like a long shot. Loudermilk was considered a developmental player. The next group of defensive linemen for the Steelers.
After Stephon Tuitt was unable to play, and Tyson Alualu was lost for the season with a broken leg, Loudermilk was thrust into playing time no one expected him to see in his rookie campaign. What fans saw was a player who had potential, but was rough around the edges.
“Coming in, I wasn’t sure really what to expect, if I was going to get some playing time, it wouldn’t be a whole lot,” Loudermilk told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “Everything kind of happened, injuries and stuff like that, so I kind of got thrown out there. I was prepared for pretty much anything. I wouldn’t say I was really expecting to get as much as I did, but I’m glad I did. I feel like I grew a lot as a player actually being able to go out there and play.”
The experience Loudermilk experienced in 2021 was beyond valuable, but he knows there is plenty he can improve upon in his game. Mainly as a pass rusher.
“I’d say one big thing for me is pass rush,” said Loudermilk. “I feel pretty solid against the run, but there were just some things with my pass rush I really want to hone in on a little bit more because I definitely feel like I was a little bit behind on that. But that’s definitely one thing this offseason that I’m planning on working on.”
One way Loudermilk benefited by being drafted by Pittsburgh wasn’t just the outstanding coaching along the defensive line, but the fact he has a mentor and All-Pro in Cam Heyward who has helped him as much as he could throughout his first year as a professional.
“He [Heyward] pretty much showed me anything he could,” Loudermilk said. “Anytime we were doing drills, we would work together. He would give me little pointers, hand placement and stuff like that. Being able to come in and have a mentor like that helped me a ton. I think that’s one of the big reasons why I felt like I made a pretty big jump from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Just week in and week out taking little things from him. Watching how he does things and feeding off him. I couldn’t ask for a better mentor than Cam.”
Loudermilk played in 15 games last season, starting two of those games. During his playing time he was able to deliver 23 combined tackles, 1 sack and 3 passes defensed. Not too bad for a player many didn’t expect to even be active during the regular season on game days.
If Loudermilk can continue to develop he could be a very valuable asset to the Steelers’ defensive front. With Heyward, Tuitt and Alualu all on the wrong side of 30-years old, getting major contributions from a player like Loudermilk will go a long way to improving the future of the team’s defensive front.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft.