The Steelers’ defensive line has had to gone through severe growing pains in 2021. The team possesses the second-worst run defense in the NFL, largely due to the line’s struggles. The team has had to dig deep for depth with Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu both missing virtually the whole season.
Positively, there’s been encouraging progression on the defensive line lately. Late-season pickup Montravius Adams has been very solid, but rookie Isaiahh Loudermilk has been perhaps the biggest surprise. He was a very raw product coming out of college, but has been forced into early action this season. Coach Mike Tomlin has been impressed with his maturation process.
“The natural maturation that guys go through: exposure, understanding, putting that understanding practically into work and developing the type of habits that’s gonna allow you to play well.” “You know, due to the misfortune of others, he’s gotten additional opportunities and that’s always good for a young guy,” Tomlin said Thursday via the Steelers’ website.
In a society where everyone wants instant gratification from the team’s draft picks, it’s refreshing to still see guys struggle before ending up being a quality player. Loudermilk seems to be a big part of the Steelers’ future plans, as well. Cam Heyward is only getting older, Tyson Alualu will be coming off a major injury next season, and Stephon Tuitt will be two years removed from game action.
“But it’s also good that he hasn’t gotten too much exposure, you know? You know, and so he hadn’t waned at all during the course of the journey. It hadn’t been a long journey for him because he hadn’t been a full participant from start to finish,” Tomlin said.
Loudermilk hadn’t seen more than 40% of the defensive snaps in a game before Week 16. In the past two weeks, he’s been on the field on over 50% of the team’s snaps. As Tomlin pointed out, the playing time, albeit limited, has enabled him to have a slower maturation process.
Loudermilk hasn’t had to rush into being a full-time starter. It’s something that he needed after how unfinished he was before the season. Clearly, the process the Steelers have instilled has worked along with the help of defensive line coach Karl Dunbar. Loudermilk continues to show improvement, and that’s all you can ask for from a rookie.