NFL Draft

Nick Herbig Highlighted As Steelers’ Highest-Graded Draft Pick By PFF

The selection of linebacker Nick Herbig by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft at No. 132 overall has created a ton of discussion, in large part due to questions about his overall fit as a ‘tweener defensively, not to mention the family ties he has for Pittsburgh.

It’s also created a ton of discussion due to his production at Wisconsin in 2022. And now, it’ll create more talking points as Herbig was highlighted by Pro Football Focus as the Steelers’ highest-graded pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, a grade driven by play on the field, not some silly, arbitrary, post-draft grade like we’re in school.

The Wisconsin product generated a grade of 87.4 over his college career, according to PFF.

Herbig certainly got the job done in college, racking up 134 career tackles, 36.0 tackles for loss and 21.0 sacks during his time in Madison. That production led to first-team All-Big Ten and third-team All-American accolades as a junior in 2022.

“The Steelers are all too familiar with productive Wisconsin edge rushers. From Week 5 to Week 12 last season, Herbig never recorded fewer than three quarterback pressures in a game. That resulted in his second straight 91.0-plus season-long pass-rushing grade,” PFF’s Ben Cooper writes highlight Herbig as the highest-graded draft pick by the Steelers in the 2023 NFL Draft. 

Herbig certainly landed in a good spot in Pittsburgh. As he adjusts to the NFL, he gets a chance to live with his brother, Nate, while getting his feet wet as a professional football player in a new system and a new city. On top of that, Herbig also lands in a situation where he’ll get to learn from the best in the game in Steelers star outside linebacker T.J. Watt, a fellow Wisconsin product, as well as a self-made player in Alex Highsmith, a former college walk-on turned NFL standout.

Though size — specifically arm length — is a real concern for Herbig as a true EDGE in Pittsburgh’s scheme, the Steelers simply have nobody but Quincy Roche behind Watt and Highsmith. That is where Herbig will come into the picture. He might not stick at outside linebacker long-term, but the Steelers have a clear need for a third outside linebacker.

GM Omar Khan stated during an interview last week on SiriusXM’s Movin’ the Chains with hosts Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller that he believes Herbig can play inside and outside and will be that versatile piece. That might be his best bet at cracking the 53-man roster and having a clear-cut role, not to mention on special teams under coordinator Danny Smith.

There’s no denying Herbig’s production at the collegiate level. He was one of — if not the best — pass rushers in the Big Ten in 2022, showing up each and every week when it came to rushing the passer and disrupting the game. His 15.5 tackles for a loss as a junior led the Big Ten and ranked 18th nationally, while his 11.0 sacks in 2022 were the most in a Wisconsin single season since current New Orleans Saints linebacker Zack Baun recorded 12.5 in 2019.

Ultimately, we’ll see just how impactful Herbig, as the highest-graded draft pick, can be in his rookie season. That grade doesn’t mean anything once the action starts though.
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