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T.J. Watt Says Fellow Wisconsin Badger Nick Herbig Has Been Picking His Brain For Years Before 2023 Draft

The Pittsburgh Steelers always value connections when it comes to building, either on their roster or elsewhere within the organization. While that doesn’t tend to be the case when it comes time to hiring head coaches, most other jobs tend to be filled by those with whom they have had some sort of relationship or about whom they had some other sort of insight.

That the Steelers signed Nick Herbig’s older brother in free agency about a month and a half prior to drafting him isn’t the deepest connection in the world, but it wasn’t the only one tying him to Pittsburgh. After all, he was already acquainted with some prestigious alumni from the Wisconsin Badgers program—most notably 2021 NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt, who confirmed yesterday that he’s been in touch with the younger Herbig for the past couple of years, according to Amanda Godsey of the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat.

“I think he ended up reaching out to me. I mean, [Wisconsin’s] outside linebackers coach there at some point probably reached out to me”, he said yesterday during OTAs in a video Godsey posted to Twitter. “We got connected through Instagram and have just been sending videos back and forth on how to do certain moves and just always picking our brain on the pass rush”.

Like many alumni, Watt has made appearances at his old stomping grounds and spoken to some of the Badgers who have come after him. He even worked with Herbig last March while attending Wisconsin’s Pro Day. Herbig was still returning for the 2022 season at that time.

I’m sure this sort of interaction has continued over the past three days that constituted the first week of OTAs for the Steelers. There are still two more weeks to come, followed by mandatory minicamp, before they break ahead of training camp.

Watt and Alex Highsmith are the proverbial “old heads” in the room, though the Steelers have since added Markus Golden, who is now the oldest head in the room. That’s plenty of experience upon which Herbig will be able to lean as he looks to stick on the edge in the NFL.

Having a fellow alum to look up to in Watt, who is willing to be an open book, isn’t a bad resource. And like Watt, he will also be able to lean upon the wisdom of his older brother, Nate, when it comes to making the transition from college student-athlete to professional football player as a full-time job.

While Herbig doesn’t have Watt’s elite frame and all of the same athletic ability, one thing he does have that Watt didn’t is tangible college experience and production. Watt was a converted tight end who dealt with injuries in college. Herbig was a very productive player for the Badgers.

That’s something I wasn’t able to do”, the perennial Pro Bowler conceded about his unremarkable college resume, according to Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I didn’t watch every game, but I know he has a very well-rounded pass-rush game”.

The hope in Herbig’s case is that his college production will prove to be indicative of what he can do at the NFL level. Watt was drafted for his potential, which proved to be a remarkable gamble. Herbig, a mid-round pick, will have to prove that he has what it takes to do the same things against NFL athletes that he did in college. But he’ll have tremendous resources at his disposal while he tries, including Watt himself.

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