Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: DL Isaiahh Loudermilk
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: After expecting to be a healthy scratch during his rookie season, the fifth-round pick ended up becoming an important rotational player along the defensive line, and gradually showed development, and promise that he could grow into a positive contributor.
There was a lot of moaning and groaning when the Steelers traded a 2022 fourth-round draft pick in order to obtain a 2021 fifth-round draft pick (the standard price when using a future pick to pay for a present pick—one round up). The moaning and groaning grew worse when that pick was used on a defensive lineman, and worse still when it was Isaiahh Loudermilk, a prospect whom many amateur scouts and amateur non-scouts saw as closer to a priority free agent than a mid-round selection.
Fortunately, as it concerns performance on the field, it ultimately doesn’t matter how you got there, just what you do once you’re there. Loudermilk ended up dressing for 16 games including the postseason, a healthy scratch for the opener then missing one game due to injury. With Carlos Davis going down in the opener, and then Tyson Alualu a week later, and Stephon Tuitt never playing, he became a very important player.
He even started two games late in the season when injuries mounted, with Chris Wormley (who was starting in Tuitt’s place) missed a couple of weeks due to injury and COVID-19. He ultimately played more than 300 defensive snaps, contributing 26 tackles with three batted passes and one sack. He had another sack taken away due to a penalty, if memory serves.
Depending on whether or not Tuitt decides to retire, Loudermilk could be a big part of the Steelers’ plans in 2022. He might even compete with Wormley to start at left defensive end if they don’t end up bringing in somebody else.
We do know about the young man that he has the physical frame and the technical capabilities of executing Mike Tomlin’s defensive system, even if he is not a superior athlete. Likened by several people to a young Cameron Heyward during his rookie season, Loudermilk is somebody who has the potential to blossom—but you don’t harvest potential. Let’s wait to see what produces.