PITTSBURGH — Nick Herbig only played two snaps for the Steelers on Sunday in their win over the Seahawks. But he made perhaps the biggest play of the game for the defense. Herbig wrapped around Charles Cross with a two-hand swipe after fighting through a chip, sacking Geno Smith for the only time in the game and forcing a fumble.
In college, what made Nick Herbig stand out more than other featherweight speed rushers was his hand usage at the top of the rush.
Really good example of that here with him splitting the double, club-rip at the top with some seriously impressive bend.
Play maker. pic.twitter.com/TTjZXMxvaI
— Derrick (@Steelers_DB) January 2, 2024
Herbig is an exciting player. But his frame is unique for someone who plays on the edge. There is a reason that people thought he would be an inside linebacker. He was only 240 pounds, and that is light in the NFL, but there is a growing trend of guys who are on the lighter side trending towards playing on the edge, specifically in sub-package roles. Josh Uche and Bryce Huff are the two notable examples, and Herbig is now following in those footsteps.
His brother, Nate, played for the New York Jets and was teammates with Huff. Herbig watched plenty of Huff to help his game. Huff is a highly productive player who started out as a sub-package rusher but has morphed into a three-down player. That is what Herbig wants to be.
“I mean, I always want to be a three-down player, not just a situational guy,” Herbig said. “I watch a lot of Bryce. My brother played with the Jets so I always saw some of my game in him.”
Herbig’s bend and explosiveness are things that stand out about his game. Who else has those? Huff does. Herbig showed flashes of being great when he played off-ball both in the NFL and college. It makes sense. Herbig is a fantastic athlete with excellent movement skills and fluidity. He even made his sack against the Cincinnati Bengals by making a sack from that spot. But his baseline traits make him slinky around the edge rather than a guy who plays off the ball.
He uses hand movements and tricks from Huff’s game. Nate described Huff as a ‘dawg’ and Nick has watched the traits that Huff uses to be successful and sees it in his game.
“Well, we have similar frames,” Herbig said. “He’s got a crazy first step and great bend. I see a lot of myself in him. So, I’ve watched a lot of film of Bryce’s game.”
The off-ball linebacker talk had merit because some guys can do it. In Carolina, Frankie Luvu did this exact thing. He went from edge rusher to off-ball linebacker, and while he is now a wildly productive inside linebacker. But the growing trend of these standout sub-package rushers is one the Steelers want to follow, and they are the benefactors of it.