Newest Pittsburgh Steeler Nick Herbig will begin his NFL career doing much of what he did in college: rushing the passer off the edge. Despite many draftniks believing Herbig would have to move to off-ball linebacker at the next level, the Steelers confirmed he’ll begin his time in Pittsburgh out on the EDGE.
That was first hinted at by having OLBs Coach Denzel Martin discuss the pick. And Martin confirmed Herbig will begin his career on the EDGE.
“He’s gonna start at outside linebacker,” Martin said Saturday during the post-pick press conference via the team’s YouTube channel. “That’s what we have.”
Herbig weighed in at 6’2, 240 pounds at the Combine with 31 1/4-inch arms. With a thinner frame, that profile suggested a move to an inside or off-ball linebacker position with. At one point in the pre-draft process, Herbig himself admitted a position switch was likely to take place. But the Steelers saw enough from him on the EDGE, where he racked up 36 tackles for a loss and 21 sacks in his Badgers career to keep him there at the beginning of his career.
Martin said the team was comfortable with his weight though Herbig will soon meet Strength & Conditioning Coordinator Garrett Giemont to put him on the Steelers’ plan.
“I think we like it, 240 is good,” Martin said. “Obviously you can gain some weight but we’ll get with [Giemont] on that.”
While Herbig’s height and weight aren’t immediately disqualifying to play the position, a lack of length and overall body type is more concerning. Herbig has a thinner frame and poor length for the position to face offensive tackles with 33+-inch arms and smaller outside linebackers, like Malik Reed last season (6012, 234, 31 1/4 inch arms), have struggled in Pittsburgh’s system.
But Herbig is quick off the ball, a good athlete with hand use, and shows a hot motor on tape, all traits that will give him the best chance to succeed. He should also be an immediate asset on special teams.
Later in the presser, Martin noted Herbig’s athleticism and ability to move around but reiterated the team’s goal to keep him on the EDGE to begin his NFL career.
“He’s definitely athletic enough to [move around]. But like I said, we’re gonna start him at that outside ‘backer and try to make a player out of him. Make a big-time player out of him first.”
Martin was promoted to outside linebackers coach earlier this year, though he’s worked closely with DL Coach Karl Dunbar and Pittsburgh’s EDGE rushers for the past several seasons.
Herbig will slot into the group behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. DeMarvin Leal could still play a standup role while Quincy Roche was brought back in the offseason to help round out the room. The Steelers adding a veteran also can’t be ruled out.