PITTSBURGH — Nick Herbig is going to play against the Buffalo Bills. And in his young career, it will likely be the game he plays the most. Of course, that means a playoff atmosphere on the round in Buffalo on what could be a snowy day. T.J. Watt is out, and Mike Tomlin confirmed that on Tuesday.
Watt had an MRI, which came out as a grade 2 MCL sprain. He was seen wearing a sleeve on his left leg but did not have a brace on and was walking on his own power without crutches. Still, that does not mean that he is ready to play, as NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport believes his best-case scenario is missing just two weeks.
Watt’s brother, former NFL star and CBS Sports analyst J.J. Watt, reported on Sunday that Watt does not need surgery and that he would be able to recover after a few weeks of rest, but did not say whether or not Watt could return to action this season.
But that options the door to his mentee, the confident young Herbig. But he is not shying away from the spotlight that will be put on him, instead, choosing to run right to it.
“It just comes down to preparation and hard work,” Herbig said. “When the lights come on, you are going to see the preparation and hard work come to fruition.”
Nick Herbig looked like dynamite in the preseason. He referred to himself as that, citing his phrase that ‘dynamite comes in small packages’, when people question his size and ability to be a three-down rusher. But this week, along with Markus Golden, Herbig is expected to increase significantly.
He’s already made plenty of plays, including a massive forced fumble against the Seattle Seahawks. But this is a playoff game against one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. That environment might amp Herbig up even more to make plays.
“I think they believe in me, which I appreciate,” Herbig said. “And a lot of guys are telling me that it’s my time to step up and believe in me. You know, T.J. is telling me he believes in me. So, just having that support from those guys, my coaches, I’m just excited.”
Nick Herbig Taking the Next Step
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. And he hopes to take the next step to make plays against the Bills.