The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to repeat that they see ‘a young Cam Heyward’ in rookie defensive lineman Isaiahh Loudermilk, the man they drafted out of Wisconsin in the fifth round. They didn’t have a fifth-round pick, so they gave up their fourth-rounder next year in order to move into that spot and pick him up.
Perhaps Pittsburgh drafted him because of the resemblances that he bears to Cameron Heyward, incontrovertibly one of the best defensive linemen in Steelers history, which in and of itself is impressive. Of course, Heyward was a first-round pick out of Ohio State with incredible physical gifts and an NFL bloodline. But the Steelers are liking the early signs from Loudermilk, and see where he has catching up to do.
“We like 92. To me, he’s a small Cam”, defensive coordinator Keith Butler said, referring to Loudermilk by his jersey number. “Cam is a very strong football player and that’s the only thing 92’s gotta do. He’s gotta catch up with Cam in terms of his playing screens and stuff like that. I think he will eventually”.
It’s not immediately clear where the rookie fits in, as the defensive line is quite deep as it is. Aside from Heyward, they also have Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu in the starting lineup, all three of whom have received accolades for their play. They also have veteran Chris Wormley poised to be their top rotational end, with Carlos Davis and Isaiah Buggs battling to be the number two defensive tackle.
The issue of who will be on the roster and who will play where can be settled at a later date, though. For the time being, Loudermilk is simply in a great environment for learning, with the opportunity to be in a room filled with strong veteran leaders.
“He’s got some good mentors in front of him with Tyson and Tuitt and Cam”, Butler said, each of whom have seven-plus years of NFL experience. “I think all of them know that he’s got some talent to be a good football player for us and I think he’ll end up helping us”.
Loudermilk acquitted himself well for the most part in his NFL debut, playing against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night in the Hall of Fame game. He logged 35 defensive snaps in all during the game, and came out of it with three tackles, including two stops, with one pressure as a pass rusher.
Of course, it’s not uncommon for backup defensive linemen to beat backup offensive linemen in preseason games. It will be another matter when he has to go up against Wyatt Teller and J.C. Tretter later on in the regular season. But you can’t ask for more than getting off to a good start.