DL Isaiahh Loudermilk has had to learn how to ride the wave early in his young NFL career.
Loudermilk was expected to come into 2022 and make a leap after unexpectedly seeing more play time than most envisioned for him as a rookie last season. After seeing Stephon Tuitt miss the entire season as well as having Tyson Alualu go down in Week 2 with an ankle fracture, the former fifth-round pick out of Wisconsin was called upon to play meaningful snaps in what was supposed to be a redshirt campaign for the developmental defensive lineman.
Loudermilk represented himself well in 2021, playing in 15 games, starting two of them and finishing the season with 23 total tackles, a sack, and three PBUs. However, coming into Year Two with the expectation to build off his rookie season, Loudermilk found himself buried in the depth chart behind the likes of Cam Heyward, Chris Wormley, Tyson Alualu, Montravius Adams, FA signing Larry Ogunjobi, and third-round rookie DeMarvin Leal. This influx of depth and higher-end options left Loudermilk without a helmet for the first five games of 2022. That is, until Leal got put on IR and Loudermilk got his first crack at regular season action against the Bucs last Sunday.
When interviewed by Mike Prisuta about the difficulties of being low on the depth chart and having to wait for an opportunity, Loudermilk said that he took everything in stride, knowing his opportunity would come.
“I wouldn’t say difficult,” Loudermilk said to Prisuta on IHeartRadio Pittsburgh’s YouTube channel. “I just had to be patient is really what it was. I came in here every day and worked the same. I would no matter what. It did give me a little bit of an edge on how I worked because I wanted to get a hat badly and it was kind of same as last year, kind of some stuff happened. I got my opportunity and I kind of ran with it. So, I got my opportunity now, so I’m just going to keep my head down and, um, help the team however I can.”
Loudermilk was seen as a high floor but low ceiling player coming out of Wisconsin, lacking the pass rush upside to be an impactful starter, but still possessing the capabilities of being a viable run defender. That’s why a rookie like Leal got the helmet over Loudermilk, as he stepped in and played admirably before suffering a knee injury, getting some run out on the edge after OLB T.J. Watt went down with a pec injury.
Still, Loudermilk waited his turn and seized the moment, playing 22 defensive snaps against the Bucs and recording two tackles. He helped Pittsburgh stifle the Tampa Bay running game, holding Leonard Fournette to 63 yards on 21 carries, getting in on plays as Pittsburgh’s defense rose to the occasion short-handed against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
With Leal on IR, it’s expected that Loudermilk will again suit up Sunday night in Miami and for the foreseeable future until Leal returns. Until that happens, Loudermilk has a chance to make the most of the opportunity given to him and show the coaching staff as well as the rest of Steelers Nation that he can make a positive impact on the defensive line this season and potentially for seasons to come.