Steelers: Can Jabrill Peppers be the next Troy Polamalu?
By Juan Cabrera II
Can the Pittsburgh Steelers find their next defensive star in Michigan ultimate play maker?
Thirteen years ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise selected a hard hitting safety from the university of southern California, they made Troy Polamalu the #16 overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft. Man did they get it right, 12 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, 32 interceptions , 770 total tackles and 3 touchdowns later #43 hung up the cleats.
It has been 2 years since Polamalu retired and Pittsburghs once fearsome defense has flipped the script. They have missed their future hall of famer leading that secondary, having yet to find a worthy successor.
Enter university of Michigan linebacker/safety superstar Jabrill Peppers. The wolverine has been electric this season posting 54 total tackles with 3 sacks while also scoring 3 touchdowns on the season thus far.
Peppers stands at 6-1, 205 pounds respectively, being a little taller then Polamalu when he came out of USC, as well as being as if not more athletic then the former Steelers star.
Peppers versatility along with his ability to produce the big play when needed is strikingly similar to Polamalu who took home a defensive player of the year in 2010.
Often in Polamalu’s storied career, he would lineup as a nickel-back, playing the slot position or disguising himself as if he were in coverage when instead he would be rushing the passer. This is relevant due to the fact that we have seen Peppers run the exact same play style this season for the Wolverines. Mind you Peppers has notched 3.5 sacks and 7 QB hurries as a pass rusher this season while playing the role of Michigan own Swiss army weapon.
Peppers has is already an electric player who while confident in himself, is open and willing to be coached. Jim Harbaugh has stated:
“It’s just happened au naturel with Jabrill Peppers,” Harbaugh continued, committing either pun or malapropism, “because he does so much — he’s making tackles from the linebacker position, he’s blitzing, he’s covering, he’s returning kicks, returning punts, he’s playing quarterback, he’s playing receiver, he’s playing tailback. He’s so involved, it doesn’t have to be a forced thing. It’s au naturel.”
On top of receiving high praise from his coach, Peppers has done more than enough to solidify himself among the great players in college football totaling 66 tackles with 15 for loss, 3.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception along with over 150 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on offense.
His versatility in all facets of the game gives him the opportunity to be a game changer that the Steelers hope to land on draft day.
The Michigan product has the potential to be a defensive dynamo on the level of Polamalu, and possibly beyond the legend. Having the athleticism and talent he posses while already been playing under the tutelage of head coach Jim Harbaugh already paves the way for a similar “players” coach such as Mike Tomlin.
Next: Steelers Player Spotlight: James Harrison
With the help of Tomlin and the Pittburgh coachin staff, Peppers could very well be the next defensive star to don the black and gold.