PITTSBURGH — The Steelers are hoping and praying that Jonathan Marshall can bring some sense of stability to their nose tackle room. On the same day that Chris Wormley went on injured reserve with a torn ACL, Pittsburgh signed Marshall off the New York Jets practice squad.
A sixth-round pick out of Arkansas in 2021, Marshall played in 4 games 2021 and put up a quarterback hit and two tackles. Marshall has been on the Jets practice squad all of 2022 but has yet to be elevated for a game. With the Razorbacks, Marshall registered 1.5 sacks over his four years in Fayetteville. Throughout those years, he added 11.5 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and 71 tackles.
However, his experience with the Razorbacks should bring him some level of stability within the Steelers’ system. In many ways, Jonathan Marshall sees a lot of similarities between the two. He played mostly as a true 0-technique at Arkansas, or a true nose tackle, and played a lot down as a 4i, too. But the most notable thing he sees is the similarity between Pittsburgh and the New York Jets. With both schemes based on their players’ gets off, Marshall thinks his explosiveness can be an asset.
“To be honest, they’re all kind of similar,” Marshall said. “It was all about the get off with the Jets and attack there. But here it’s the same thing. It’s taking the man instead of the area.”
Playing at Arkansas, Marshall was part of a unit that wrecked some offensive lines. He still has yet to truly get his feet under him, as Marshall has only played in four games. But there are some intriguing raw tools that Pittsburgh could harness with Marshall right away.
This is the athletic profile of new Steelers DT Jonathan Marshall. Signed off the NYJ practice squad. Some pretty impressive numbers in here. Athleticism won't be a question.
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) December 14, 2022
According to his Relative Athletic Score, Marshall is an elite athlete in the defensive tackle and nose tackle positions. His size graded out as only okay, but his strength with 36 reps is elite, and his explosiveness and speed were elite as well. That guarantees no success for Marshall on the field, but for a team’s scheme that is based on explosiveness and get-offs, Marshall has that box checked.
With Wormley down, Pittsburgh lost one of their best run defenders. Montravius Adams, Cam Heyward, DeMarvin Leal, Isaiahh Loudermilk, and Tyson Alualu all logged snaps at nose tackle on Sunday against the Ravens. Heyward has been outspoken against playing nose tackle, and when he was there, lots of run-fit busts occurred. So, Pittsburgh went on the lookout for a nose tackle. If anything else, Marshall fits that mold.
“I’m not sure quite where I’m going to stick just yet,” Marshall said. “I’ll go through practice today and see where, but I’m pretty comfortable doing anything they ask me to do.”
On the limited tape he has on an NFL radar, Marshall showcases high-level play strength and the explosiveness needed to make some plays. But his consistency is questionable, as he can sometimes play with a high pad level. But if there is one thing, his strength helped him as a run defender.
Regardless, nothing is certain with Marshall. He is as unproven as an NFL nose tackle can be. Although there are some sings that he could add a positive spark to the unit like Adams did a season ago, he will have to put that on tape. Not having played this year, Marshall feels like the Steelers throwing another dart at the board. Given his pedigree, the chances it hits a bullseye are not very high. But for a practice squad add, Marshall’s athleticism and play strength give him an intriguing combination of upside.