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Steelers Plan on Using Payton Wilson’s ‘Superpower’ to Their Advantage

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Pittsburgh Steelers LB Payton Wilson

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers have solid depth at inside linebacker this season with Patrick Queen, Elandon Roberts, Cole Holcomb, Payton Wilson and Mark Robinson. On paper, it’s the best unit that they’ve had in years.

Even though he’s a rookie, the team especially has high expectations for Wilson, who could be the steal of the draft.

Wilson possesses superb athleticism. The third-round selection out of NC State 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 an impressive 9.89 Relative Athletic Score out of 10.

Steelers linebackers coach Aaron Curry said the defensive staff plans on using Wilson’s speed to their advantage. He calls it his superpower. Wilson got reps in the Dime package during OTAs and minicamp.

“The way I lead the room is that everybody must be ready so nobody gets kicked to the curb. Everybody gets prepared that they’re gonna get all the reps,” Curry said. “I think it’s just our job as a defensive staff to recognize his superpower and use it to our advantage.”

“He’s fast, athletic guy that will play physical, that can also cover. As we go through this thing, we’ll find a home for him where he can use his superpower to our advantage.”

Pittsburgh Steelers ILB Payton Wilson

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Payton Wilson with coach Grady Brown during the team’s minicamp at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on June 12, 2024. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin raved about Wilson’s athletic abilities at minicamp.

“He can really run,” Austin said. “That guy can move. He’s really sharp. He’s into football. He asks great football question. I think he’s going to have a legitimate shot to be a Dime linebacker, right off the bat.

“He can cover. He can run. He’s smart,” Austin said. “Once we get the pads on, that’s when we’ll make the final determination.”

Curry even sees some Bobby Wagner-like traits in Wilson.

“My background, spent a lot of time with Bobby Wagner. Bobby played fast like that, so seeing that speed, it’s really exciting because you know there’s gonna be some plays that only his speed can make. So I’m excited. I’m looking forward to those opportunities for him,” Curry said at minicamp.

Wilson has showcased to the coaching staff that he’s a football-lover. He’s as advertised.

“Pre-draft, my note on him was he’s a football junkie. And he really is,” Curry said. “He meets, he wants to be right, he takes constructive criticism properly. He wants all the answers. He’s gonna study tape on his own, he’s gonna come in with questions, he’ll spend all day in the building if you let him. He’s a football junkie, a high football character guy, he’s fun to coach.”

Nick Farabaugh contributed reporting from Pittsburgh.