When the Pittsburgh Steelers first drafted Jordan Zumwalt, he came in with a decent amount of expectation for a player drafted in the sixth round. He was coming into an uncertain situation at linebacker and was fully expected to compete to provide valuable depth.
After spending his rookie season on injured reserve, however, he doesn’t appear to be any closer to securing a roster spot for himself. In fact, according to the observations of our own team, Zumwalt has not particularly been able to show too much thus far during training camp.
The Steelers chose to double up on the inside linebacker position during last year’s draft, including first-round selection Ryan Shazier, because they were facing a lot of turnover from the year before.
Gone was starter Larry Foote, with only second-year player Vince Williams returning. Williams himself was a sixth-round draft pick thrust into a starting role before he was ready, emphasized by the fact that the Steelers played with six defensive backs more than half the time to get him off the field.
The biggest uncertainty was Sean Spence, a third-round draft pick in the 2012 draft for whom there were, understandably, high expectations. But we all know his background already, so suffice it to say that it was far from a given that the Steelers would see anything out of him.
Terence Garvin was a special teams player on the periphery of the roster, and it was thought that, even if Spence did come back, Zumwalt could, at worst, wrest the designated special teams spot away from the former undrafted tryout player.
A year on, however, both Williams and Spence have solidified their roles with the team, and Garvin has continued to excel in his special teams niche. All three have been performing quite well thus far during training camp, and it seems that any one of them will be a tough task to knock off.
Last year, Zumwalt’s chances of making the roster were sidetracked after a recurring injury finally got the best of him and landed him on injured reserve. That groin injury ultimately required surgery, the effects of which he may still be feeling, as reports have indicated that he looks a bit stiff.
Whether or not his showing thus far can be in any way attributed to his past injury at this point is irrelevant, however. He will be required to make a supreme effort during the preseason in order to even throw his hat into the ring for a spot on the practice squad, let alone the 53-man roster.
While this all may be bad news for Zumwalt, however, the difficult road that he faces just to find a spot on the practice squad puts into perspective just how fortunate the Steelers are at the moment with respect to the depth available at the inside linebacker position. Let’s hope that injuries don’t play a role in making Zumwalt’s path any easier.