With the 156th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft (12th in the fifth round), the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Wisconsin defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk. This was the first selection obtained by a draft day trade this year for the Steelers, who sent a fourth round pick in next year’s draft to Miami for the 156th pick. Here is an introduction to the Steelers’ new defender.
Loudermilk played his high school ball at West Elk High School in Howard, Kansas. He played eight-man football in high school, finishing as his team’s MVP twice. Loudermilk was an all-state selection and three-time area all-star, leading his team to its first-ever playoff victory. During his career, he recorded 267 tackles, 22 sacks, and three interceptions. Loudermilk recorded 97 tackles, two sacks, and two interceptions in his final year. Also serving as a pass-catcher, he caught eight career touchdowns, five as a senior.
A three-star defensive end, Loudermilk took visits to Oregon and Kansas State in addition to Wisconsin. He received over 10 offers, including from Missouri, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Iowa State.
Loudermilk was also a star basketball player away from the football field. He was a two-time all-state selection while averaging a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds per game his junior season. Loudermilk also was a successful track & field athlete, in the shot put.
HIS TIME IN COLLEGE
Loudermilk arrived at Wisconsin and immediately received a redshirt for the 2016 season, making his debut as a redshirt freshman in 2017. Loudermilk played in 11 of Wisconsin’s 14 games as a backup, missing three games with an injury as the Badgers went 13-1 and won the Orange Bowl. He contributed to a team defense that ranked second in FBS in yards allowed and third in scoring defense and rushing defense.
Loudermilk ascended into the starting lineup as a sophomore, starting six of his nine games played at defensive end. Once again, he missed time (four games) with an injury. Loudermilk was third on the team in passes broken up, as the Badgers went 8-5, and won the Pinstripe Bowl.
The first completely healthy season for Loudermilk came in 2019 as a redshirt junior, where he started 14 games at defensive end and finished fifth on the team in tackles for loss, sacks, and pass breakups. Wisconsin went 10-4 that season, losing in the Rose Bowl.
Loudermilk was a starter for the third season in 2020 as a redshirt senior, playing in all six of the Badgers’ regular season games, but missing the Duke’s Mayo Bowl with an injury (Wisconsin won, and went 4-3 overall that season). He was second on the Badgers in sacks, fifth in tackles for a loss, and ninth in total tackles. Following the season, Loudermilk received his first postseason honors, selected to the All-Big Ten third team by the writers, and as an honorable mention by the coaches.
BY THE NUMBERS
Loudermilk appeared in 40 games during a four-year Wisconsin career. Here are his stat lines for those seasons:
2020 (6 games): 13 tackles (nine solo), 2.5 TFL, two sacks
2019 (14 games): 24 tackles (13 solo), five TFL, three sacks, five PD, two FF
2018 (9 games): 15 tackles (eight solo), 2.5 TFL, one sack, three PD, one blocked kick
2017 (11 games): 11 tackles (six solo), 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, one PD
Reaching the later stages of Day 3, particularly in a pre-draft process altered tremendously by COVID-19, there aren’t many prospects who were strongly linked to teams prior to being selected. Loudermilk and the Steelers are an example of that, as there were minimal rumblings of the team targeting him, via trade up or otherwise.
The Steelers did attend Wisconsin’s Pro Day to watch Loudermilk, in the form of area scout Dave Petett.
HIS PITTSBURGH FIT
The Steelers announced Isaiahh Loudermilk as a defensive tackle during their pick, and played defensive end for the Badgers. Whichever spot along the defensive line he occupies, Loudermilk’s immediate fit with the Steelers is as a backup, given the stalwart group of Stephon Tuitt, Cameron Heyward, and Tyson Alualu occupying the starting spots on the line.
Loudermilk could see some time on special teams, and in goal line packages as a big body, and will benefit from learning under those aforementioned names who have years of experience at defensive end and defensive tackle. Long-term, Loudermilk’s ceiling with the Steelers may be capped as a back-up, with his likeliest shot at a starting role coming as a replacement for Alualu as he wraps up his career with Pittsburgh.