There are few things that the Pittsburgh Steelers love more when looking at a potential draftee than NFL bloodlines. Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig has that, as his brother, Nate, an offensive lineman, has spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets. Herbig comes from an athletic family, as his father played college football and basketball at Lewis & Clark College and his grandfather played football at Wheaton College in Illinois. Herbig isn’t just living off his family name though, as he made quite the splash at Wisconsin.
The 6’2, 227-pound linebacker has racked up 20 sacks over the past two seasons, including 11 in his junior year last season. He also flashed in coverage, with seven career pass deflections. During the NFL Combine, Herbig talked to reporters on Wednesday morning and one of the things he mentioned was his coverage ability.
“That goes back to coach [Jim] Leonhard. Me and him worked on that a lot this offseason, we just wanted to focus on my backpedal, dropping and breaking off quarterback intention, breaking off the eyes,” Herbig said.
He played as an EDGE during his time in Wisconsin, but his size might be a limiting factor if he hopes to do so in the NFL. However, he isn’t too concerned about his size.
“Dynamite comes in small packages,” Herbig said when asked about potentially being too small to play full-time off the edge.
“I play this game with a lot of heart. I feel like I play this game the right way. This is who I am, this is who I’m going to be for the rest of my life. Take it or leave it,” he added.
Herbig, who also said he’s had a formal meeting with the Steelers during the combine, is plenty familiar with a former Wisconsin EDGE Steelers fans should know well in T.J. Watt, who he said he models his game after and worked out with last summer.
“I actually got to work out with him a little bit this past summer, so that was definitely a highlight of my life, for sure.” Herbig also said he’s close with Watt.
“Me and T.J. are pretty close, actually. I reach out to him when I need advice, he’s always there for me, he always answers me. He’s always a call away, text away, so I appreciate that guy big time.”
Herbig detailed the biggest piece of advice Watt’s given him.
“Make sure that I’m working harder than whoever’s in the room.”
It’s never a bad thing having T.J. Watt around to give advice and taking on his mentality, and it certainly seems as if Herbig has done so. While it’s hard to envision him potentially being a full-time guy off the edge in the NFL due to his size, Herbig profiles as a good sub-package linebacker, particularly in the Steelers’ 3-4 scheme. He’s a guy who has really good production playing in the Big Ten against a lot of talented offensive linemen, something he said he thinks prepared him well for the linemen he’ll face in the NFL.
“I think it’ll help me a lot. Everybody says I’m too small, but I’ve played in the Big Ten, I’ve went against big dudes my whole career. I’ve put it on tape that I can hang with the best of the best.”
Herbig, who grew up in Hawaii, emphasized hard work, perseverance and grit as traits that have gotten him to where he is today. As an undersized linebacker, Herbig has to rely on his quickness and angles, and he plays stronger than his size. To get ready for the NFL, Herbig said he’s working on his awareness and play recognition.
“The NFL is a lot faster and I’m going to have dissect plays a lot faster. So watching film and just getting myself mentally prepared for a different level of football.”
He’s definitely an intriguing prospect to monitor for the Steelers at some point in Day 2 or early on Day 3. His connection with Watt certainly helps, as does his bloodline and elite production in a high-major conference. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Steelers view him as a sub-package EDGE rusher or as an off-ball linebacker, and I would presume the latter despite the fact he didn’t played off-ball a lot in college. His motor makes him a player who will find a way to impact the game no matter where he is though, and the fact that the team has already had a formal interview with him shows that he’s a priority. Herbig is a name I’ll be watching closely going forward.