Nick Herbig is a feel-good story, joining the same team as his older brother Nate. In today’s first practice as a Pittsburgh Steeler, Herbig was naturally asked about that connection as the Steelers fit as many siblings onto the roster as possible. But looking beyond that, Herbig is his own man. Nothing’s going to be given to him. And he’ll do all he can to make his mark on the franchise.
Speaking with reporters after today’s rookie minicamp practice, Herbig let the moment hit him that he’s in the NFL.
“Walking in this morning, looking around and seeing Ben Roethlisberger (picture) on the front, guys like Franco Harris, I am walking the same hall as these guys,” he said via Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley. “One day I want to be up there with them. I am ready to work.”
It’s a similar comment to what Joey Porter Jr. said, soaking in the reality that he’s made it to football’s highest point. Herbig was Pittsburgh’s fourth-round pick, known for his energy, intensity, and overall athleticism. A highly productive player in college, he could float between outside linebacker and inside linebacker. It’s not clear where Pittsburgh used him today though these minicamp practices are foundational and are limited in the type of 11 v 11 work that can be done. Much of the day is focused on individual drills and honing technique than evaluating skillsets.
Herbig’s emotions were evident from the moment he was drafted, shouting out the news to family and friends that he was headed to Pittsburgh.
Herbig’s biggest impact could come on special teams. With his closing speed, hand use to stay clean and defeat blocks, and motor, it’s possible he leads the team in special teams tackles Year One. Pittsburgh’s had quite a bit of turnover there this offseason, losing RB Benny Snell, LBs Marcus Allen and Robert Spillane, FB Derek Watt, and most recently, CB Arthur Maulet. Maulet led the team in total special teams tackles a year ago.
It might not be the same path as Ben Roethlisberger or Franco Harris, both named Rookie of the Year in their debut seasons, but the Steelers have a storied history of great players on offense/defense who cut their teeth on special teams to start. James Harrison did that for years before the door opened to play outside linebacker. Hines Ward got his start there. Brett Keisel ran down kicks and punts long before sacking quarterbacks. When the late Tunch Ilkin got drafted, Chuck Noll told him to become a good long snapper because they needed someone to replace Mike Webster.
All of that is to say Herbig can play a key role on the 2023 Steelers even if he’s not starting out of the gate. Which, of course, he won’t be, behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. We’ll see how Pittsburgh does use Herbig, how much they move him around, and if he can have any significant defensive role as a rookie.