Since he was drafted, the Pittsburgh Steelers, DC Keith Butler in particular, made loose comparisons between Isaiahh Loudermilk and Cam Heyward. Big, strong, tough dudes who could play the run. Make no mistake. Loudermilk is not Heyward. Far from it. But he’s getting to learn from one of the league’s best and in small ways, emulating what Heyward does on the field.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Loudermilk discussed what it’s meant to learn from a guy like Heyward.
“It’s huge having Cam in there, kind of our mentor leader,” he said via the team website. “He’s definitely someone we can watch during practice during games and kind of see how he attacks those kinds of situations. His knowledge of the game is incredible. He’ll help me out with just the littlest thing. Sometimes big things. Anytime he tells me something, I take it to heart. Because he’s an incredible player. Having him in the room has definitely helped me.”
Loudermilk has been pressed into action early in his career in what should have been something akin to a redshirt rookie season. But with Stephon Tuitt out all year and Tyson Alualu fracturing his ankle, along with Carlos Davis’ knee injury, Loudermilk has been forced to grow up fast. He played 15 snaps Sunday against the Browns and his 25% snap share was the second most he’s had this season.
He helped minimize a potent Browns’ rushing attack, holding them under 100 yards for just the second time all season with starter Nick Chubb held under four yards per carry. Loudermilk played a role in that. But my favorite play was a 3rd and 15 tackle he made downfield, hustling after the football to ensure the defense would get off the field. It was a downright Heyward-like moment.
Few players run to the ball like Heyward does in space. That’s the standard created for young guys and Loudermilk is following suit. He said Heyward has been helpful in passing along tricks of the trade.
“There are times, I’ll see something new, whether it’s like a guard jumps out at me, a different type of set I’ll ask him about it. Because he’s been in the league long enough that he’s seen pretty much everything and he can adjust to pretty much everything…I’ll ask him what he thinks I should do in this situation, what he does in that kind of situation. I kind of try to bring that into my game.”
Loudermilk’s ceiling is still to be determined, there are valid questions whether he’s a good enough pass rusher and athlete to be a full-time starter, but he has gotten better. His game still has room for growth, he even had rookie and teachable moments in that win over Cleveland, but he has the look of at the least, a rotational run stuffer in the Steelers’ defense.