Like most rookies, defensive end Isaiahh Loudermilk had plenty of ups and downs in his first year in the NFL. After being drafted in the fifth- round of the 2021 draft, the Wisconsin product was supposed to be more of a project that the Pittsburgh Steelers could mold over time. But without Stephon Tuitt, and Tyson Alualu suffering a season-ending injury early in the season, he was forced into action. Loudermilk reflected on all of the new experiences when talking to a local CBS News Station in Madison, Wisconsin.
“It was a big experience for me, going in the first time,” said Loudermilk talking about the first time he walked into the Steelers’ facility, according to Sam Dehring. “Then I kind of figured out, this is where I work now, this is what I do, so I got used to being in there pretty fast, but the first time we all kind of got together and came into the facility was great for me.”
Something that was equally as great for him is where he was selected. His draft profile on NFL.com listed him as a priority undrafted free agent, but the Steelers traded a 2022 fourth-round pick to the Miami Dolphins to move up into the fifth-round and take him. The 24-year-old dressed for 15 games and totaled 23 tackles, three passes defended and a sack in 2021. The hope is obviously that Loudermilk can grow into his body in order to round out a defensive line that struggled to stop even the most average rushing attack. But with the possibility of Tuitt coming back into the fold and the Steelers drafting DeMarvin Leal in the third-round of this year’s draft, how much playing time Loudermilk sees will rest on him and the work he’s putting in this offseason to improve.
“The main area I’ve been working on is a little bit of strength in my lower body,” he said. “I just really want to be able to hunker down a little bit more in the run. Just being able to be that three-down player, you don’t have to worry about leaving me out there and not getting a pass rush.”
It would certainly help the Steelers should he develop into that kind of player, especially with the current age of the Steelers’ interior defensive line. Listed now at 6-foot-7, 293 pounds, a lot what hindered Loudermilk’s performance was raw strength. He was pushed around a bit by more technically sound offensive linemen in the run game. However, Loudermilk’s improvement was obvious, look no further than opponent’s yards per carry numbers when he was on the field.
It’s a great sign, too, that he understands his weaknesses and wants to be a factor on all three downs. It also heavily benefits him and the Steelers that he has someone like All-Pro defensive end Cameron Heyward, who he was compared to last year, to learn from.