The Pittsburgh Steelers first of two sixth-round draft picks, linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, will have to miss valuable practice time during the offseason due to NFL graduation rules, but because he played in a 3-4 defense at UCLA, he doesn’t feel like he will be behind when he is able to able to practice again later on in the summer.
“They had some guys that were able to come in early and learn a lot. I wasn’t able to because of the quarters system, but I guess I have an equal advantage to them because I was running it for the past few years,” Zumwalt said after a recent rookie minicamp practice.
During his final two seasons at UCLA, Zumwalt played for defensive coordinator Lou Spanos, who was on the Steelers coaching staff from 1995-2009. Because of that, he feels like he already has a good grasp of the Steelers defense.
“Just different vocabulary, different language,” said Zumwalt, who made 30 starts at UCLA. “You have to learn the different verbiage and things like that, but scheme-wise, its roughly the same.”
After the Steelers chose Zumwalt in the sixth-round, linebackers coach Keith Butler talked about how the young linebacker’s experience in college under Spanos would likely help him at the next level.
“The transition for him will probably be a little bit easier,” said Butler. “Lou Spanos was the coordinator out there last year. They did a lot of similar things that we do. They did some things that normally colleges do so that will be a little bit different for him. A lot of colleges play field defenses, and that is what they did out there a little bit. The nomenclature is a lot of the same so it is probably going to be a pretty easy transition for this kid in terms of trying to learn our defense.”
While Butler also said at that time that he viewed Zumwalt more as an inside linebacker, he reportedly mostly lined up at one of the two outside spots during the weekend rookie minicamp, so we’ll have to wait and see if that sticks when the team reports for training camp.
For now, Zumwalt is just excited to be in Pittsburgh and happy to be playing for Butler.
“He’s the best in the league for a reason,” said Zumwalt of Butler. “He knows everything that he’s talking about. He’s a great man as well, so I get along with him very well.”