Realistic best and worst case scenarios for the Steelers rookies

Georgia tight end Darnell Washington (0)
Georgia tight end Darnell Washington (0) / Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK
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Steelers best/worst case scenario for Nick Herbig

Best case scenario

As time has progressed, I would argue that the Nick Herbig pick is my least favorite of this class (and I still like a lot of aspects of his game). Despite seemingly wanting to get some edge snaps out of him, the team makes it clear early in training camp that he is going to be an off-ball linebacker first and a pass rusher second.

That doesn’t lead to a lot of defensive success early, but Herbig carves out a role on special teams early in the season. His pass-rush background makes him a menace on punts and his gritty play makes him a perfect fit for coverage units. He blocks a punt and leads the team in special teams tackles as a rookie.

His defensive impact is less felt. He gets a helmet on game days but is clearly fourth on the depth chart as he learns his new role. He does log some snaps in a blowout loss in week eight, and he racks up three tackles and a sack. They use him as a traditional linebacker, but he shifts over to the edge on occasion and rushers the passer as he did in college.

By the season's end, he only appears in five games on defense but is a star special teams player. He flashes the ability to be a good linebacker in his limited play, and the expectation is for him to compete for a starting role there in 2024. He occasionally rushes off the edge, but Herbig has found a role as a linebacker in the NFL

Worst case scenario

There are some continuities from this scenario to the last one. Specifically, Herbig becomes a core special teams player for this team. Unless he is injured, he seems like a perfect fit for that unit, and I expect him to carve out a role there as a rookie no matter what.

The issue lies in the team viewing Herbig as an edge rusher despite his lack of size and length. Convinced that he can be the third edge rusher on the depth chart, the Steelers roll into the season with him as the primary backup to the starters. He rotational snaps immediately on defense.

His lack of length makes him a poor fit though, as pro-level tackles consistently bully him out of plays and leave him as an unimpactful defender. He occasionally gets some effort sacks, as his motor doesn’t turn off, but he is clearly a weak link on the edge.

He actually plays more defensive snaps in this scenario, close to 25 percent of them, but the tape is clear that he is the wink link. He logs 1.5 sacks, but the team quietly moves him off the ball after the season concludes, delaying his transition by a year, unfortunately.