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2024 NFL Draft

Payton Wilson Gave an Answer That Steelers Would Love



Pittsburgh Steelers Payton Wilson

Live from the draft party at Acrisure Stadium on Saturday, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward asked third-round selection Payton Wilson, “What is Pittsburgh getting with you?” Given his nature and blue-collar mindset, the answer wasn’t all that surprising.

“A guy that if there is 75 downs played I want out there for all 75 and I’m going to be looking to rip someone’s head off on every one of them,” Wilson told Heyward during an appearance on the Not Just Football podcast, via Steelers fan @Mazursky8895 on X.

Wilson is a tremendous sideline-to-sideline backer that’s capable of patrolling the middle of the field by using his rangy athleticism to cover an enormous amount of ground. There are some negatives, such as the fact that he lacks the preferred length to stack and shed blocks at the second level. He’s athletic, loves to hit and his film checks a lot of boxes for what teams look for at the position, provided he can stay on the field.

There is a lengthy injury history with Wilson that led to teams passing on him in the draft. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network said that Wilson does not have an ACL in one of his knees.

Wilson was a five-year player at NC State, and he had his best statistical season in 2023, when he recorded 138 total tackles, six sacks, three interceptions, six passes defended, a forced fumble and one defensive touchdown. He won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the top defender in the country and the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker.

Wilson 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 a 9.89 RAS out of 10.

Wilson was projected as the No. 46 player on the NFL Mock Draft Database big board, falling 40 spots on his significant injury history. Throughout his career, Wilson has dealt with knee injuries, shoulder injuries, and some questions about a concussion. From what is known about his medical history since high school, he has undergone over ten surgeries. That includes surgeries on both shoulders and multiple on his right knee. So, there are some serious questions about durability with Wilson.

The Steelers don’t have an immediately obvious need at linebacker. They signed free agent Patrick Queen from the Baltimore Ravens earlier this offseason and are also set to return 2023 starters Elandon Roberts and Cole Holcomb, though Holcomb is still returning from a mid-season knee injury, without a firm timeframe.

Alan Saunders and Nick Farabaugh provided reporting from Pittsburgh.