At the risk of beating the drum one stroke too often and tearing the canvas, there is another piece to fit in place to the puzzle that is Gerod Holliman, the Louisville free safety and Jim Thorpe Award winner that the Pittsburgh Steelers selected with the 239th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
By now, we’ve all read the nightmare portion of Holliman’s scouting report, which suggests that he has the tackling ability of Jeff Reed. Last week, I looked back at his performance in the Belk Bowl to see how severe those issues continued to be in the game in which he was meant to be auditioning for the draft that he had just declared for.
In that game, I found a host of the deficiencies that we have already seen described elsewhere, from poor angles and technique to hesitance and poor spatial awareness in traffic or close up at the line. It has also been quite evident through his college career that he has shied away from using his left shoulder when tackling.
It’s been assumed that the reason for this was due to a previous shoulder injury that he suffered, but yesterday was the first time that we got the opportunity to hear him discuss the topic for himself.
Following practice in front a host of reporters, Holliman fielded a barrage of questions that chiefly concerned his fall all the way to the bottom of the seventh round, but eventually he was also asked about his tackling, and it was Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider with the answer.
Wexell writes that he suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder prior to his college career, and the injury that he suffered during his redshirt freshman season was a re-injury. When asked about if that shoulder injury affected his tackling ability, he acknowledged in the affirmative, saying “it really did and I kind of tried to stay away from it”.
Perhaps no play better exemplifies that fact that in his shoulder tackle attempt in the hole on the running back during the bowl game. Despite his poor technique, he got enough pop with the brunt of his right shoulder to get the back down. But Holliman got the worst of the collision and stayed down, coming off the field for a snap.
About the injury, the rookie said “it’s something that I grew from when it came time to tackling. In my angles to the ball I really favored my other shoulder a little more. That’s something I’ve been working on throughout my college career, to be able to square back up and get used to tackling with both shoulders”.
Clearly, defensive backs coach Carnell Lake has his work cut out for him, as not only does Holliman have the psychological hurdle of learning to play squared with both shoulders to contest with, he also must be coached out of all the bad habits that he has developed as a result of favoring his right shoulder.
It’s worth noting that Holliman was a one-year starter who just turned 21, so there’s reason to believe that he has a lot of room to grow. He gave up two years of eligibility to join the NFL now. it’s up to the Steelers’ coaching staff to use that extra time wisely and get him coaches up on the fundamentals.