When the Pittsburgh Steelers announced their selection of Wisconsin linebacker Nick Herbig in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, they sent outside linebackers coach Denzel Martin out to speak with the media, and Martin said that they team intends to start playing Herbig at outside linebacker.
But on Thursday, general manager Omar Khan explained that there’s more to the plan than that.
In an appearance on Movin’ the Chains on with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller on Sirius XM Radio, Khan said that the Steelers see Herbig as a player that could fit at both outside and inside linebacker.
“We think he can play inside and outside for us. So we love that flexibility,” Khan said. “Love his flexibility and think he’s going to contribute on special teams, too.”
Herbig played outside linebacker in Wisconsin’s 3-4 base defense that is very similar to the Steelers’, so from a familiarity standpoint, that makes sense. But at 6-foot-2 with relatively short arms, his athletic profile is probably a better fit at inside linebacker where he would have more free reign as a blitzer and fewer solo matchups with bigger tackles.
That’s why he was listed by many draft outlets as an off-ball linebacker and not an edge rusher.
But Khan said they see him as a player that can do both, and while his familiarity at outside linebacker makes it make sense for him to start there, they see him as a backup that can fill multiple roles.
That familiarity is one of the reasons the Steelers love collecting Wisconsin players. They got two in this draft class, with Herbig and nose tackle Keeanu Benton joining Isaiahh Loudermilk and T.J. Watt as ex-Badgers on the Pittsburgh defense.
“(Former defensive coordinator Jim) Leonhard has done a great job over there with them,” Khan said. “We obviously like Wisconsin pass rushers. T.J. Watt is from Wisconsin, too. It just so happens that his brother is here, too, so that will be pretty cool to watch. Their mom was excited about that pick more than anyone. … He’s an amazing young man.”