Steelers fans should want this Day 2 LB target after the 2024 NFL Combine

A stellar Combine performance should have Steelers fans salivating at the chance of landing this linebacker in the draft.

NFL Combine
NFL Combine / Stacy Revere/GettyImages
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Every so often, a player explodes with a historic performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. That happened in Indianapolis this year. As the linebackers took the field in front of a packed group of coaches, scouts, executives, and media personnel, one performance clearly stood above the rest.

Just before this, the Pittsburgh Steelers had formal meetings with many of the top projected linebackers set to enter the 2024 NFL Draft. This included Texas A&M;'s Edgerrin Cooper, Michigan's Junior Colson, Clemson's Jeremiah Trotter Jr., and Ohio State's Tommy Eichenberg.

Sadly, the one top LB prospect they did not visit with is the one who could be the best of the bunch: NC State's Payton Wilson.

Payton Wilson is a polarizing LB prospect who could boost the Steelers' defense

Heading into the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine, there were plenty of draft analysts who already had Wilson penciled in as their top linebacker this year. For those who didn't, you can bet that their draft boards are going to change drastically after his performance in Indianapolis.

After sustaining multiple ACL injuries in the past and a laundry list of surgeries, everyone was anxious to see how fast Wilson would be. In his first trial of the 40-yard dash, Wilson blazed with a 4.44. His official time ended up being 4.43, per NFL.com.

When you plug this time in on Mockdraftable's database, Wilson's 40-yard dash time ranks in the 97th percentile among all linebackers entering the NFL since 1999. Likewise, his 1.54 10-yard split landed in the 95th percentile all time. Wilson followed this up with a respectable 34.5'' vertical jump and a 9'1'' broad jump.

During the on-field drills, Wilson was a cut above the rest. His effortless lateral movement is going to translate to the NFL, and the NC State product showed why he should be considered in a class of his own among this linebacker group.

This speed and explosion can be seen in his tremendous film at NC State in 2023, as he consistently flashes his sideline-to-sideline ability. Wilson also earned phenomenal grades last year. According to Pro Football Focus, Wilson's 89.9 overall grade ranked 6th in the nation.

Perhaps most important is his innate ability in coverage. Wilson earned a remarkable 90.4 coverage grade last year. This is clearly the area that Pittsburgh's linebackers have struggled the most in recent years. Wilson would be an every-down linebacker who can fly all over the field and make plays.

The biggest issue is clearly his extensive injury history dating back to his high school years. The Steelers dealt with major injuries at the position last year with both Cole Holcomb and Kwon Alexander. This might have been what scared the Steelers away from visiting with him at the NFL Combine.

However, after his stunning performance at the 2024 NFL Combine, Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan might want to reconsider. There is some risk to drafting Payton Wilson because of his age and injury history, but every Steelers fan should want this Day 2 linebacker prospect after the Combine. Let's hope Pittsburgh's brass puts him on the radar for the NFL Draft.

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