The Pittsburgh Steelers surprised many when they moved into the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft earlier today, giving up a future fourth round pick to do so. Selecting defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk with that selection was probably even more surprising. In fact, most everybody seems to be downright disappointed.
The Wisconsin Badger was not a touted player during the pre-draft process. In fact, many outlets such as NFL.com projected him to be a priority free agent signing, rather than a fifth-round pick, though there were some who believed he would sneak into the later rounds.
“I didn’t look too much into it,” he told reporters during his introductory conference call earlier today about his pre-draft evaluations, “just because it’s really about not where you start, but where you finish, and that’s kind of the mentality that I have.”
Loudermilk is the fourth Day 3 defensive lineman the Steelers have taken over the course of the last four drafts, preceded by Carlos Davis in 2020, Isaiah Buggs in 2019, and Joshua Frazier in 2018, though he is the highest-drafted of that group. He will be directly competing with Davis and Buggs for a roster spot later this summer.
“I know the player that I am, and I know what I can bring to a team,” he added. “To me, of course, I wanted to hear my name called, and I was super excited to hear my name called. But for me, it was getting the opportunity, and luckily, I have the opportunity now, so it’s just time to really show what I can do.”
Totaling 62 tackles during his college career, including 12 for loss, and eight sacks over a four-year career consisting of 31 games, Loudermilk is not the most prolific product out there. Defensive line coach Karl Dunbar and the Steelers saw something in him that they couldn’t wait until the sixth round to get.
“I come from the South,” Dunbar said, and “they say defensive linemen are just like pretty women. There’s not a lot of them, and everybody wants them. And when you find a big guy like that and you want to get him on your team, I think that’s the thing to do.”
The Steelers traded out of the fifth round last year, when they dealt that selection to the Baltimore Ravens in exchange for Chris Wormley, whom they re-signed this offseason and will also be a part of the team’s depth chart along the defensive line.
The fifth round pick they acquired from the Miami Dolphins ended up being 12 spots higher than their natural draft choice was. The Steelers last selected 140th overall with their fourth round compensatory selection. Without the trade, they would not have been selecting again until the bottom of the sixth round, with Tampa Bay’s selection at 216. That’s a huge gap they weren’t comfortable risking.