Pittsburgh Steelers rookie sleeper everyone should be talking about

Pittsburgh Steelers; Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers; Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers have quietly had a pretty good offseason in 2023. They certainly haven’t made a ton of headlines, due largely to the fact that I don’t think anyone in the national media wants to stake their reputation on this team and, specifically, on quarterback Kenny Pickett. Pickett’s progression is an unknown at this point, but if the preseason is any indicator, it looks like the Steelers might be in contention for the AFC North this coming season.

As is typically the case year over year, the Steelers appear to have drafted exceptionally well in 2023. We’ve seen some great things from rookie tight end Darnell Washington throughout the offseason, second-round pick Keeanu Benton is making noise, and obviously the Steelers are going to be expecting big things at some point from first-round pick Broderick Jones.

But what about fourth-round pick Nick Herbig out of Wisconsin? He isn’t exactly the “forgotten” selection among the Steelers’ 2023 NFL Draft class, but he may have been one of the most slept-on rookies in this year’s crop. Herbig has had arguably the most impressive preseason of any Steelers rookie so far in 2023.

Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Nick Herbig balling out in the preseason

According to Pro Football Focus, Herbig is rocking with a 30 percent pass rush win rate so far in the preseason. His production in this small sample size has been incredible but it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to those who watched him ball at Wisconsin. Over the last two seasons, Herbig racked up 20 sacks and 30 tackles for loss for the Badgers with four forced fumbles. He’s going to be an absolute menace in the NFL.

Fortunately for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they are going to be able to bring him along at whatever their preferred pace may be. They already have two of the best edge defenders in the game in TJ Watt and Alex Highsmith. We’ll likely see Herbig start off with a rotational role and a role on special teams, but he’s already proving to be worthy of more than just the “rotational” label. This guy looks like he’s going to be an absolute baller off the edge.

Although his size is less than the “ideal” for what you look for off the edge, it’s all about play speed and play strength. Does Herbig get consistently buried at the line of scrimmage because of his size, or does he consistently hold his own? Is he able to disengage from defenders? Is he able to win with hand strength? Can he stack and shed?

I think the answer to all of those things is clear.

Herbig looks like he will be able to carve out a role on this Steelers defense rather quickly, and virtually no one is talking about him. Well, to be clear, there are some people talking about him. And a lot of people are starting to take notice as well…

What this guy is doing right now is outstanding. We’ll see how quickly he can grow into a prominent role for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, but chalk up another “W” for their scouting department and front office for this outstanding selection.