PITTSBURGH — Nick Herbig’s fast start to his NFL career has stunned everyone, not Mike Tomlin and the Steelers. The moment he stepped out onto a practice field, Herbig dominated the competition. Nothing changed when he stepped into a game setting as Herbig racked up 3.5 sacks and the highest pass rush win rate across the entire NF L during the preseason. But with a loaded outside linebacker room, is there room for Herbig to play? Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin knows there are snaps to go around for Herbig.
“They do but there’ll be reps and I think no matter how many he gets,” Herbig said. “I think he’ll do something with it. If he’s a 10, 15, 20 play rep guy. I think he’ll do a great job with them and then as it goes, hopefully we get into some situations in two minutes where he’s got to rush the passer and those guys have to rotate in there and keep them fresh. But there’s, he’s going to get the snaps. I think he’ll get probably what he deserves, and we’ll go from there. If he earns more, then he earns more.”
Tomlin wants people to care about more than just Herbig’s pass-rush repertoire. The run defense and special teams part of the equation matter for a rookie outside linebacker still likely fourth on the depth chart behind three polished veterans. Austin does not see Herbig as “deficient” in any of those areas. As a pass rusher, Herbig is not a one-trick pony but someone who can win with speed, power, and dynamic counters.
“You know, it’s not just the game tape,” Tomlin said of Herbig. “Those of you that watch practice, he’s not doing anything at the stadium that you haven’t seen with a high level of consistency in practice. And so, we just expect that to continue. You know, he’s getting a lot of notice because of his rushing but that’s just a component of his game and play. He’s got to be good against the run. He’s got to be skilled and productive in the kicking game. And so, there’s a lot of things that a young guy in his position needs to focus and work on.”
Herbig has soaked up information from each of the three veterans ahead of him and incorporated their moves in record time. As a result of his polished skill set, Herbig will play a key role on the defense as a fourth-round rookie.