As rosters across the league will get an extreme makeover over the next couple of days with final cutdowns to the league mandated 53-man roster to start the regular season, several players are going to find themselves either on a new team or looking for a job. In the case of DL Isaiahh Loudermilk, it would be safe to say that his roster spot is likely secure. Pittsburgh thought high enough of Loudermilk coming out of Wisconsin in the 2021 NFL Draft to trade a future fourth-round selection to acquire a fifth-round pick to select Loudermilk as they didn’t want to see if he would fall to their next pick in the sixth round.
So far, it has been an up-and-down preseason for Loudermilk. He has had moments where he flashed as a pass rusher as well as use his long frame to his advantage by batting passes down at the LOS or pushing the pocket. However, there have been ugly moments on film as well, showing that Loudermilk is still pretty raw as he attempts to make the transition from the college game to the pros and needs to get stronger and work on his technique to better hold the point of attack and shed blocks.
We still saw the latter on Friday night against the Panthers as Loudermilk as he would struggle to shed blocks routinely in order to pursue the passer or make a play against the run. Here is an example on this first down run where Loudermilk engages the LT but is a tad slow to get off the block after he shocks the blocker back. He attempts to reach out to arm tackle the back, but whiffs as he falls to the ground and the runner breaks past the LOS for a modest gain.
While Loudermilk does have great length and can use his frame to push the pocket, he needs to play with a better anchor when engaging with blockers as he tends to lunge forward into the block without having his feet underneath him. Case-in-point here on this run where Loudermilk shoots forward off of the snap, lunging into the blocker and gives him the opportunity to get a hold of his shoulders and yank him to the ground as #30 Chuba Hubbard runs through his gap for a big gain.
On this play earlier in the second quarter, we see another instance where Loudermilk is slow to shed the block by #75 Cam Erving, missing out on getting on the play. I will get credit to Loudermilk for his ability to get a good initial push on Erving, but his lack of hand usage as well as the fact that he doesn’t have a great anchor against the run due to his height.
While I may seem critical at times of Loudermilk and his performance, I will recognize that there was a lot of positive moments throughout his film on Friday night in Carolina. Loudermilk can struggle at times at shedding blocks and keeping his shoulders square at the LOS, but when he executes with good technique, he makes big plays. Check out this example where Loudermilk stonewalls the TE at the RE spot, knocking back the fullback coming to help on him and still manages to get in on the tackle hold the runner to a short gain on the play.
Here is another example earlier in the first quarter of the game where Loudermilk does a great job moving laterally down the LOS while keeping his shoulders square to the LOS. He plays with good leverage and arm extension on superb blocker #72 Taylor Moton, refusing to get driven back as he strings out the play and helps bottle up the runner for no gain on the play.
Pittsburgh has always been enamored with size and length at the defensive line, looking for large men on the interior that can push the pocket and cause disruption upfront. While I acknowledge that Loudermilk needs to develop more physically to be a reliable defender, there are moments like on this pass rush where you see what he can do. Loudermilk does a great job engaging to block upon the snap, attempting to hit the push/pull move, but instead of getting the pull, he knocks the blocker back a second time, extending his arms to get the center falling backwards as Loudermilk finishes in the lap of the QB for the sack.
Another underrated aspect of Loudermilk’s game is his motor. While it can be inconsistent if he is fatigued, there are moments where he shows phenomenal pursuit of the football. We saw one instance in that chase down tackle against the Lions last week, and Loudermilk had a similar play against the Panthers on Friday night, getting off of the block by the TE and pursues #14 Sam Darnold with great effort, stumbling a little as he closes ground, but manages to keep his feet and chase Darnold to the sideline and force an incomplete pass.
Overall, I wasn’t much of a fan of the Loudermilk pick in real-time and after doing more film analysis during the offseason and after the first couple preseason games, I was still skeptical on the decision to trade up for him. However, Loudermilk has flashed potential and playmaking ability the last few weeks, showing us why Pittsburgh wanted to secure him. He likely still needs a year to develop as a likely gameday inactive for most games but seeing as the defensive line is getting up there in age and Loudermilk fits the prototype the team looks for, I won’t be shocked if Loudermilk works his way into the defensive rotation as a contributing member as early as 2022.
What are your thoughts on Isaiahh Loudermilk and his performance against Carolina as well as in the preseason as a whole? Has he surprised you or are you in belief that he still has a long way to go in order to be ready to play meaningful snaps in a regular season game? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!