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2023 NFL Draft

Steelers Draft Profile: Wisconsin LB Nick Herbig Looking to Follow Mentor T.J. Watt’s Path to NFL



Nick Herbig

INDIANAPOLIS — Linebacker Nick Herbig has heard the questions about his size often enough that he’s got an answer ready for his doubters.

“Dynamite comes in small packages,” he said. “I have a lot of heart and I think I play this game the right way. This is who I am, and this is who I’m going to be for the rest of my life, so they can take it or leave it.”

So far, the NFL doesn’t appear completely convinced that taking it is the right move, even as Herbig posted strong numbers in his final two years at Wisconsin. Despite becoming the only Big Ten player to hit double digits in sacks (11), scouts have shied away from putting him high on their draft boards because he appears undersized as an NFL edge rusher.

Herbig’s not really worried about what the scouts are saying about him. As far as he’s concerned, what matters is that he’s gotten an invitation to Indianapolis and he’ll get his chance somewhere, where his results can speak for themselves.

“I think this already is a success,” he said. “Just me being here, enjoying every last second of this and taking it all in, I look at it as a blessing more than a stressing. I’m just so thankful that I get to be here.”

In Madison, nobody needs convincing of what Herbig brings to the table. During his sophomore year, Herbig graded out as a 91.4, the highest number of any Wisconsin linebacker ever. That even beat out Steelers star T.J. Watt, who posted a 91.0 in 2016 before becoming the Steelers’ first-round pick in 2017.

Comparisons to being the next Watt might be premature, but Herbig’s already taken his chance to learn what he can from the former Badger. He’s patterned his game after Watt’s, and last year at Wisconsin’s pro day, Herbig had the chance to work out with Watt and practice a few drills.

The two have remained in touch, and should the Steelers select Herbig in April, they’ll be adding a player with an instant connection to one of their team leaders.

“Me and T.J. are pretty close, actually,” said Herbig, who confirmed that he has met with the Steelers. “I reach out to him when I need advice, and he’s always there for me. He always answers and he’s always just a call away from me; I really appreciate that guy.

“He’s always told me to make sure that I’m working harder than whoever’s in the room, to keep my head down and just stay the course.”

Along with Watt, one of Herbig’s other big influences is his older brother Nate, an offensive lineman with the New York Jets. As children, Nick, Nate and oldest brother Jake regularly competed in everything, and Nick is quick to credit that experience with helping him get to this point.

“I don’t think I’d be here without my brother, honestly,” Nick Herbig said. “He’s like my backbone and he’s one of the guys that got me here. He laid the blueprint, and I’m just trying to follow in his footsteps.

“I’ve learned that you can’t just wake up and expect things to fall into place for you, because nothing in this world comes free. You’re going to have to work for every single play and every single win, so learning that from him has helped me tremendously. The first time I got to watch him play and run out of the tunnel (in the NFL) is one of the top moments in my life.”

His own moment isn’t far away, and regardless of where he gets selected in the draft, he has no intentions of letting questions about his size or anything else hold him back.

“I want to prepare for everything, because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “All I know is I can control what I can control, and I’m going to be ready for whatever comes.”


6-foot-2, 228 pounds, 32 inch arms, 9 1/2 inch hands, 75 7/8 inch wingspan


The biggest question with Herbig is his size, and the Wisconsin product knows it. He doesn’t have as much size as the typical edge rusher, and he hasn’t really shown the strength needed to get past the kinds of tackles that populate NFL rosters. But he’s an explosive hitter and he has the ability to drop into coverage when necessary, giving him plenty of possibilities for his NFL future. As long as he can develop the strength and skills needed to get past larger tackles, he’ll likely develop into a solid contributor for an NFL team.


Herbig’s athleticism and explosiveness off the line make him ideal for getting to the quarterback, as long as he can develop the strength he needs to get around blocks. In college, he became one of the most effective players in the Big Ten, recording 15.5 TFL and 11 sacks in 2022. However, the Badgers didn’t play that difficult of a schedule in 2022, missing both Michigan and Penn State. That left Ohio State as the one league power Herbig faced in 2022, and that was the one game in his first 10 where he didn’t record a TFL.


Because of the questions about his size, there’s a wide range of possibilities for where Herbig might land. His ceiling is probably somewhere in the middle of the third round, which would fit nicely if the Steelers intend to take him with the 80th overall pick. However, the questions about his size have some mocks calling for him to fall into the fifth round or possibly further.

If Herbig has a strong combine performance and shows that he’s stronger than he appears on film, the Steelers would probably have to spend that third-round selection to add him to their squad. If not, he could become a steal in the fifth round. Unless Pittsburgh makes a trade, he probably won’t end up a Steeler if he falls below that pick, as the Steelers do not currently have a sixth-round selection. Needless to say, this is a big week for his future.

2023 NFL Combine

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