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2024 NFL Draft

Payton Wilson’s Brother is an Ex-Pirates Pitcher

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Pittsburgh Steelers Payton Wilson

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers’ third-round selection Payton Wilson out of NC State has a relationship with former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, a fellow NC State linebacker alum, but that’s not his only prior connection to Pittsburgh.

Wilson’s older brother, Bryse, was a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2021-2022. He’s now with the Milwaukee Brewers after the Pirates dealt him in January of 2023.

Payton Wilson told reporters in a conference call on Friday night shortly after being drafted by the Steelers that Pittsburgh is one of his all-time favorite cities.  He’s also well-aware of how passionate the fans are.

“I actually came to a few games when my brother played for the Pirates. It’s one of my favorite cities of all time. My brother actually used to live in the Strip District. So super familiar with the city and super familiar with how much Pittsburgh loves their professional sports teams and super excited to get there,” Wilson said.

In the Wolfpack’s win over Wake Forest on Nov. 11, Wilson passed legend Bill Cowher (371) for seventh place all-time in NC State history. Wilson concluded his career with 402 tackles, fifth-most in school history.

Cowher, who was inducted into the Wolfpack Football’s Ring of Honor last September, is someone that Wilson looks up to.

“That’s one of my idols, an NC State legend, someone who lives life the right way, on and off the field. His name’s in the Ring of Honor at NC State, and he is one of the best coaches to ever coach in the game and one of the best linebackers to ever play. So just super excited to wear this jersey and continue his legacy,” Wilson said.

Payton Wilson is a 6-foot-4, 235-pound linebacker with a rare combination of size and speed, but also a lengthy injury history 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.