Penn State interior defensive lineman PJ Mustipher doesn’t have to search too hard for inspiration when it comes to being what it takes to get to the next level, considering his father, Sam, played at West Virginia and his older brother, Sam, played at Notre Dame before becoming a Chicago Bear as an undrafted free agent.
In three seasons, Sam has started 46 games at center, becoming a key piece in Chicago’s rebuild.
Despite the bloodlines and the close, personal options Mustipher can to look to when aiming to reach the next level, the Penn State product instead models his game almost exclusively after current Pittsburgh Steelers star defensive lineman Cameron Heyward. Maybe it’s the 97 that they both wear, or the old-school facemask that Mustipher rocks, but there’s certainly a real resemblance in the Penn State product’s game to the Steelers’ star, whom he hopes to join in the NFL soon.
Speaking with Steelers Depot here in Las Vegas as the 98th edition of the East-West Shrine Bowl, Mustipher (6035, 315), who secured a Combine invite earlier in the week, spoke highly of Heyward and highlighted what he looks to take from his game, which includes impressive power — something that Mustipher has put on display time and time again here in Las Vegas.
“Cam Heyward is a guy I watch a lot of,” Mustipher told Steelers Depot. “I love Cam Heyward. He’s on the skinnier end now at this point in his career. He has a high compete level, which is how I want to play.”
That compete level is on display throughout his film and throughout the week here in Las Vegas. Mustipher is constantly having his motor run hot, competing from start to finish in a rep, whether that’s in team or individual drills, forcing the offensive linemen to block him. That’s how he played in college too, forcing guys to handle him for 60 minutes.
At his size, and with his strength and motor, he can wear guys down. That’s been his calling card, which helped him earn the prestigious captaincy at Penn State the last two seasons.
“My physicality and my competitiveness — I’m not going to stop; you’re going to have to block me for 60 minutes,” Mustipher said to Steelers Depot regarding what he believes is a strength of his game. “My willingness to compete, coming from Penn State, I love to compete with the best. I was a two-time captain for a reason along with guys that are already in the NFL.
“I love to challenge myself and get better against the best, and that’s why I’m out here.”
Along with that high compete level that Mustipher possesses, he has embraced the “griminess” of playing in the trenches, looking to mix it up, never backing down from anyone on the field. At his size and weight, Mustipher stated that he’s most comfortable playing as a 3-tech or a 2i at the next level, but as expected he is willing to play wherever a team asks him to play, just wanting to get a shot to be on the field.
“I’m really comfortable in that 3 or 2i, anywhere in that 3-technique, honestly. I can hop out to that 4-tech as well,” Mustipher said. “I just love being in the trenchs. I love the grimy aspect of it all. Anywhere a team needs me to be defensively, I’m going to excel.”
After watching his brother excel in the NFL the last three seasons in Chicago after being an undrafted free agent, Mustipher has a leg up on the competition entering the NFL, having a family member to bounce things off of and see what offensive linemen are doing in today’s game, especially new techniques to try and win against the new-age defensive linemen.
While he has his own skillset and play style to work off of, having his brother, Sam, right there every step of the way is a big help for Mustipher as he’s one step closer to realizing his dream of playing in the NFL.
“It’s helped a tremendous amount. I couldn’t imagine doing this without him because he’s been so helpful for me,” Mustipher said. “I got a cheat code. I just listen to what he says, and he gives me pointers all the time. As an offensive linemen, he’s telling me what he looks for, what he doesn’t like that defensive linemen do that makes it hard on him, so he knows what to look for.
“He’s been truly helpful.”
Through three days of practice here in Las Vegas, Mustipher looks like one of the best players here, regardless of team. He’s been a real mismatch on the interior against the offensive linemen, and has mixed it up in scraps with a pair of offensive linemen teammates in practices. He plays with a clear edge and a motor that runs consistently hot.
He’s turning quite a few heads and is starting to generate more and more draft buzz, which is not surprising considering his collegiate career.