The defensive line and perhaps the quarterback position were arguably the only spots on offense and defense at which most felt the Pittsburgh Steelers either were not in a good position to upgrade for the 2021 season or didn’t really need to. They may not have come away with a quarterback, but they did trade into the fifth-round dealing away a future fourth, to find themselves a new lineman.
That would be Isaiahh Loudermilk out of Wisconsin, who, through no fault of his own, is probably going to be the consensus least popular pick of the Steelers’ draft, with many arguing that he should have been valued as a priority free agent rather than a borderline mid-round pick.
Pittsburgh, however, clearly saw something in him, and didn’t think that he would last until the sixth round, which prompted them to move into the fifth and grab him. One thing that defensive coordinator Keith Butler saw in him was a likeness to one of their greats.
“I like Loudermilk because he reminds me a little bit of a young Cam Heyward,” he said after the selection of Quincy Roche in the sixth round. “He’s surely not as developed as Cam was. Cam came out of college and we drafted him with a high pick. He helped us quite a bit, but he still had a lot to learn.”
Not only does he see some similarities to Heyward, who was the Steelers’ first-round draft pick in 2011 and is a four-time Pro Bowler, but he also expects the team’s defensive captain to play a key role in the advancement of Loudermilk’s career.
“Cam will be a good tutor to this guy. I think Loudermilk would do well to get in that crowd with Cam and the rest of our defensive line and learn a lot from them,” Butler said. And he comes into a fairly young room overall, including third-year Isaiah Buggs and a couple of second-year players in Carlos Davis and Henry Mondeaux, though of course they also have veterans Tyson Alualu and Stephon Tuitt, as well as Chris Wormley.
It is getting crowded in there, and Loudermilk will have to actively make the 53-man roster this year rather than having a spot handed to him. This is perhaps the deepest that the defensive line has been that I can recall, truth be told, even if many of the young players still have something to prove, to say the least.
Regardless of what one feels about the selection, or the trade, the bottom line is that Isaiahh is now a Pittsburgh Steeler, and has the rest of his career out in front of him, which will either prove or disprove he was worth the investment. He may not be a young Heyward, but they don’t need him to be, either.