There are a few things that are guaranteed to happen in 2023. King Charles III will be crowned, “Little Mermaid” will be getting a live-action remake, Taylor Swift will continue to sell out concerts, and the Pittsburgh Steelers will be drafting at least one defensive lineman.
In my best Thanos impression, “It is inevitable.”
Currently, Pittsburgh’s defensive front is composed of six-time Pro Bowler Cameron Heyward, AFC North journeyman Larry Ogunjobi and… not much else. Tyson Alualu seems to be headed for retirement after a lackluster season and Chris Wormley remains unsigned after tearing his ACL last season. That leaves the team with Isaiahh Loudermilk, DeMarvin Leal, Montravius Adams and recently signed Breiden Fehoko. While there is some youth and upside with this group, I wouldn’t say it is the most inspiring unit. Especially when it comes to having a true 0-tech nose tackle.
Based on the Steelers’ recent top-30 visits with Wisconsin’s Keeanu Benton and Baylor’s Siaki Ika, it seems the team also knows the position needs to be addressed.
Outside of the aforementioned visitors, who else could be a possible candidate to fill the middle for Pittsburgh? According to ESPN’s Jordan Reid, Coastal Carolina’s Jerrod Clark could be a good fit for the team.
Clark is a hulking 6 ‘4, 334 pounds with a 33 ¾ wingspan and 9 ¾ mitts. In other words, he’s a big dude. More importantly, he’s a true nose tackle, spending nearly his entire college career playing 0 or 1-tech, occupying blockers and stuffing the run.
As a former high school basketball player, Clark has been touted for his suddenness off the line, something that routinely shows up on tape.
Here’s an example of that burst. Clark starts over the center and crashes down to the right side of the line for a big sack. Something that you’ll notice on tape is when the big man gets a full head of steam, blockers become traffic cones.
Another example here of his speed off of the line:
In one-on-one situations, Clark almost always gets some type of push into the backfield, which is why many called him a big winner in the Senior Bowl.
I don’t need to remind Steelers fans of the difficulties last season’s nose tackles had when anchoring double-teams. While Clark isn’t Casey Hampton, he shows the ability to be able to sit and handle those situations.
It’s important to note that Clark is far from a finished product, often playing too high and not being as violent as he could be with his hand usage. But overall he’s a solid middle-round prospect in whom Pittsburgh has already shown interest.
At the Senior Bowl, Clark said he met with Mike Tomlin twice, once during the formal interviews and another time on the field after one-on-one drills. In an interview with Jonathan Heitritter, Clark said Tomlin was coaching him up and telling him to play with more consistency.
“He’s just been telling me about being better at my hands and playing more consistently,” Clark said. “Just put in more consistent effort.”
As a player who does not offer much versatility position-wise, I would expect a Clark selection to come alongside a Benton or Florida defensive tackle Gervon Dexter pick earlier in the draft.
If you want to know more about Clark’s game, check out Tom Mead’s awesome breakdown.