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Bill Cowher Raves About Payton Wilson’s Athleticism: ‘It’s Off the Charts’



Pittsburgh Steelers LB Payton Wilson

Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Aaron Curry, who used to coach in Seattle, compared Payton Wilson’s speed to nine-time Pro Bowler and six-time first-team All-Pro Bobby Wagner at minicamp. Talk about high praise.

The third-round selection out of NC State ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash in the pre-draft process, a 4.2-second short shuttle and a 6.85-second three-cone drill for an impressive 9.89 Relative Athletic Score out of 10. That’s why he got reps in the Dime package during OTAs and minicamp.

In a recent interview with Teresa Varley of, former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher raved about Wilson’s athleticism. Cowher, who’s a legend at NC State, got to know Wilson pretty well in college.

“His athletic ability speaks for itself,” Cowher said. “It’s off the charts. You see it in his play. Some people run fast, but they don’t play fast. Payton runs fast and he plays fast. He has great cover ability. It’s probably made more for today’s game than back even 10 or 15 years ago because it’s a very wide-open game. It’s a game of speed, angles, and understanding the concepts of football. He has all of that. He’s proven that the last couple of years with his productivity.

“He has a lot of physical attributes from a speed standpoint, from a coverage standpoint. He can play off the ball, he can play on the ball. He’s a smart kid. He can play a lot of different positions. If you’re smart, productive, tough and can run, those are great qualities that I saw with the linebackers with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has all those same qualities.”

Pittsburgh Steelers LB Payton Wilson

Payton Wilson, NC State Athletics

Wilson revealed in an one-on-one interview with Missi Matthews of that Cowher reached out to him shortly after he got drafted by Pittsburgh.

“Yeah, he sent me a few texts. We text[ed] back and forth, just [him] congratulating me and I was just thanking him for all his wisdom and kind words and encouragement over the last few years,” Wilson said. “I got to know him pretty well over the last few years with the NC State connection, and now the Pittsburgh Steelers connection.”

Wilson will have to earn the Dime package role in training camp, but thus far, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has been impressed.

“He can really run,” Austin said at minicamp on Wednesday. “That guy can move. He’s really sharp. He’s into football. He asks great football question. I think he’s going to have a legitimate shot to be a Dime linebacker, right off the bat.”

“He can cover. He can run. He’s smart. Once we get the pads on, that’s when we’ll make the final determination.”