After the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted linebacker Jordan Zumwalt with the first of their two sixth-round draft picks earlier this month, linebackers coach Keith Butler said that he saw Zumwalt playing inside in the Steelers’ scheme.
He was playing outside linebacker yesterday during the team’s rookie minicamp.
Now, there shouldn’t be too much read into that, of course. For one, there’s only a finite number of bodies participating in rookie minicamps. Of the linebackers that the Steelers brought in this year, the majority of them play inside.
Thus, since Zumwalt has the potential to demonstrate some versatility, the team figured it would be better for the drills and scrimmages if Zumwalt and Howard Jones played outside, even if it’s not his optimal position.
Another factor to consider is the fact that his offseason will be interrupted due to his university commitments, so it’s possible that the coaching staff is just trying to throw the book at him now.
That way he has all the homework he could possibly digest between now and whenever he’s able to return, which figures to be at some point in June.
Still, it’s certainly true that giving Zumwalt the opportunity to display his versatility is not only in the interests of the team, but is an advantage in his bid to make the roster, which figures to be stacked at inside linebacker.
His main competition might come down to Terence Garvin, who last season made the roster as a rookie minicamp undrafted invitee. His calling card was quality special teams play in addition to being able to play inside and outside.
That figures to be the same route that Zumwalt will need to take this summer as he tries to make the roster by getting noticed from within the crowd at linebacker.
After all, if the Steelers intend to carry a ninth linebacker—which they often do—they need that player to be able to excel on special teams and play multiple positions. Stevenson Sylvester stuck around for a while trying to be that guy.
Scott Brown of ESPNhad a quote from Zumwalt about playing at outside linebacker yesterday following the Steelers’ first practice, which seems fairly revealing given that we’re just a few days into rookie minicamp.
“I will go wherever they want me to. They told me to make sure I am paying attention to the inside stuff, too, because I am definitely going to be playing there. So I assume I’m going to be swinging all over the place”.