Steelers need to avoid this LB prospect at all costs after the 2024 NFL Combine

Pittsburgh will be looking for linebacker help, but here's one prospect they should avoid this year.

Feb 28, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ohio State linebacker Tommy Eichenberg (LB11)
Feb 28, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ohio State linebacker Tommy Eichenberg (LB11) / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There are plenty of folks who think that the NFL Combine is overrated. While it's true that you can't measure a player's work ethic, determination, and physicality with on-field drills or testing numbers, the Combine is a time for us data to make informed decisions when it comes to the NFL Draft.

Linebacker is a position that clearly seems to be high on Pittsburgh's radar. Omar Khan recently informed the media that there is no timetable for Cole Holcomb to return from the knee injury he suffered last year, and he reminded us that Kwon Alexander is a free agent and is still recovering from a ruptured Achilles.

Ahead of the NFL Draft, Elandon Roberts is the only healthy off-ball linebacker under contract on the Steelers roster with any notable starting experience. This seems to indicate that Pittsburgh could go in this direction early in the 2024 NFL Draft.

If that wasn't enough, the Steelers recently had formal visits with a handful of the top linebacker prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine. Despite all signs pointing in this direction, there is one linebacker Pittsburgh should avoid early in the draft.

Steelers can't gamble on LB Tommy Eichenberg on Day 2

It's undeniable how much the Pittsburgh Steelers love strong family bloodlines. A while back, this organization had three sets of brothers on the team at the same time. They also spent the 32nd overall pick to land Joey Porter Jr. last year (the son of the former Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker).

There are a few players who share strong bloodlines in this class at the linebacker position. Jeremiah Trotter Jr. is the son of former Eagles' All-Pro LB, Jeremiah Trotter. Likewise, Tommy Eichenberg is the brother of former Dolphins' second-round pick from 2021, Liam Eichenberg.

I have my reservations about Trotter, as he opted out of most athletic testing at the Combine and I don't think his skill set will translate in the NFL as well as everyone hopes. However, Eichenberg is the player the Steelers need to avoid this year.

The Steelers used one of their 45 formal Combine meetings on Tommy Eichenberg, and he comes from an Ohio State football program that Tomlin loves. But if we examine the player, there are more than enough red flags that should scare Pittsburgh away from spending an early-round pick on Eichenberg.

For starters, Eichenberg is a 23-year-old coming off the worst season of his college career. Despite being a former four-star recruit with terrific college production, Eichenberg's performance took a significant step back as a senior in 2023 and he earned an overall grade of just 61.5 on the season, according to Pro Football Focus. His 52.8 grade in coverage last year is even more concerning, as he would likely do little to help an already struggling linebacker unit when it comes to pass coverage.

What's perhaps most concerning is that Eichenberg is underwhelming, and his deficiencies when it comes to his speed, quickness, and explosion will be even more noticeable at the next level. A huge red flag should have been raised when Eichenberg opted out of the 40-yard dash and the 3-cone drill at the 2024 NFL Combine.

In the areas that he did test, Eichenberg ranked near the bottom of all linebacker performances in Indianapolis this year. His 32.5-inch vertical jump ranks in the 34th percentile among NFL players at the NFL Combine since 1999, per Mockdraftable, and his 9'8'' broad jump lands in the 44th percentile.

In order to be selected in the top three rounds of the draft as a poor athlete, a linebacker prospect would have to possess excellent film, and that's something we didn't get from Eichenberg in 2024 at Ohio State.

This isn't to say that Eichenberg is going to be a bust, but the NFL Draft is about minimizing risks and maximizing potential. Eichenberg feels like too risky of a prospect without enough upside to gamble on early.

The Steelers have a need for another linebacker, and their formal visit with Tommy Eichenberg shows that there is interest on their part. He could turn out to be a solid NFL player, but this is a linebacker prospect they need to avoid at all costs after the NFL Combine.