When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Nick Herbig in April’s draft, they did so with an intent greater than just creating another brotherly duo.
Herbig may have lasted until Saturday of draft weekend, but that could make him even more valuable. Especially if former NFL GM Rick Spielman is right about Herbig’s future with the Steelers.
On the most recent episode of the With The First Podcast on CBS Sports, former NFL GM Rick Spielman and co-host Ryan Wislon discussed their favorite instant-impact rookies. Spielman has spent over three decades in NFL front offices and was GM of the Vikings for over 10 years. Here is what he had to say about Herbig:
“You know here’s what I’m going to tell you about Herbig. He is one of the best collegiate football players that I’ve watched,” said Spielman. “They (Wisconsin) used him (Herbig) mainly outside when I watched him against Ohio State (Herbig’s toughest matchup) and he displayed excellent pass rush ability off the edge.”
That’s quite the praise from someone with as much experience as Spielman, but the tape and numbers back it up. In his first and last year as a full-time pass rusher, Herbig recorded a career-best 11 sacks for Wisconsin.
A little bit of a “tweener” Spielman addressed the issue of Herbig’s size, saying:
“He’s undersized but he plays with his hair on fire,” said Spielman. “A lot of teams looked at him as potentially transitioning to a stacked position (inside linebacker) but I think he’s going to have to learn to drop in coverage. He’s more than athletic enough to do it, but he’s a natural at going forward. I think Coach Tomlin will do a phenomenal job utilizing his (Herbig’s) strikes and utilize it in a way to get to pressure the quarterback, whether it’s off the edge or whether it’s blitzing through the A gap. “
And from one former GM to the man that currently holds that title for the Steelers, Omar Khan seemingly agrees, noting that Herbig will play both inside and out. Spielman wasn’t afraid to offer a lofty comparison to Herbig, adding:
“When T.J. Watt came out, he was kind of that outside guy from Wisconsin that Pittsburgh made into, you know, one of the most dominant defensive players in the NFL right now,” said Spielman. “So I see a lot of similar traits between the two (Herbig and Watt) outside of size. And he (Herbig) still has to prove himself but Pittsburgh can utilize him to get to the quarterback immediately.”
Obviously, Pittsburgh doesn’t expect Herbig to be a future defensive MVP of the NFL, something T.J. Watt accomplished in 2021 at only 27 years old. But the last time Pittsburgh took an edge player from Wisconsin, it turned out alright.
So they hope Herbig shares more than an Alma Mater with Watt.