I doubt anybody outside of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization had any idea that Wisconsin product Isaiahh Loudermilk might be playing along their defensive line this season back in April. Certainly not when the fifth round of the draft rolled around, considering they didn’t have a fifth-round pick at the time.
But the Steelers saw something they liked enough in Loudermilk that they decided to trade a future pick in order to have access to him in the fifth round, not trusting that he would be available in the sixth. And through the adversity of others, he has been contributing for most of the year so far.
He’s happy about that opportunity, and about the fact that the trade deadline came and went without them bringing in a veteran. Even if he says that he tried not to think about that possibility too much, as he spoke to reporters earlier today.
“I don’t really need any outside things bringing me down at all”, he said about ignoring the trade deadline. “In my head, whatever was gonna happen was gonna happen. Whatever role I was gonna get, I was gonna get, I was gonna make the most of. Luckily, everyone’s been trusting me a little bit to go out there and make some plays and step in for those guys who can’t be out there”.
With the team making no moves to address the defensive line depth, Loudermilk acknowledged that his role is “gonna stay the same now, which I’m pretty happy about”.
The Steelers right now have three defensive linemen on the Reserve/Injured List who would ordinarily be dressing on Sundays. Stephon Tuitt has been there since the start of the season, a player who recorded double-digit sacks a year ago. Tyson Alualu, their starting nose tackle, went down with a fractured ankle early on.
That placed Isaiah Buggs in the starting lineup, and their other defensive tackle, Carlos Davis, has been sidelined for just as long as Alualu, though he was only recently put on the Reserve/Injured List. That has left Cameron Heyward playing alongside Chris Wormley and Buggs, with Loudermilk and Henry Mondeaux functioning as depth.
Loudermilk was most likely going to spend his entire rookie season as a healthy scratch if not for the injuries, with Heyward, Tuitt, and Alualu starting, and Wormley and either Buggs or Davis, if not both, dressing as well.
Instead, he has played 76 snaps over the span of the last six games. He recorded two tackles and a ‘sack’ across 15 snaps on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, now with five tackles, one sack, and a batted pass on the season to date.
He is certainly far from a finished product, but we are also witnessing him growing on virtually a weekly basis as he gets more opportunities and has more experiences from which to learn. As long as the Steelers are winning while he’s getting his crash courses, it’s all good.