The Pittsburgh Steelers certainly have an affinity for college programs that consistently send players to them from the NFL Draft. Places like Maryland, Michigan, Alabama, Ohio State, and Georgia.
Wisconsin is undoubtedly in there as well, with the likes of T.J. Watt and Isaiahh Loudermilk. Newly minted draft picks Keeanu Benton and Nick Herbig can be added to that group too.
According to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, that interest and connection with Wisconsin largely has to do with the Badgers being a “stylistic match” with what the Steelers do, which makes it an easier evaluation for the Steelers and their scouting staff.
Meeting with reporters Saturday following the conclusion of the 2023 NFL Draft, at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side, Tomlin spoke highly of the Wisconsin program and praised former defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard.
“Sometimes a place like Wisconsin is a stylistic match. I’ve always had a lot of respect for Jim Leonhard, their former coordinator,” Tomlin said, according to video via the Steelers’ YouTube page. “They do a lot of similar things that we do, and so it makes it an easy evaluation. It’s less speculation in terms of what they might be able to do in our system of football.”
Prior to the selections of Benton and Herbig on Friday and Saturday, respectively, the Steelers had guys like Loudermilk and Watt on the roster. That is not to mention safety Scott Nelson, whom the Steelers signed to a futures deal in the offseason after he spent time on the practice squad in the Steel City.
Now, Benton and Herbig are entering the mix for the Steelers defensively.
It takes a special type to play defense at Wisconsin, which requires hard-nosed, physical players who are able to play in poor conditions and have a strong work ethic, which helps them compete at a high level. The Steelers clearly like that, and seemingly target such players. It was rather refreshing to hear the reasoning behind the Wisconsin connections from Tomlin.