Steelers scouting report: LB Nick Herbig is a productive but undersized pass rusher

Steelers, Nick Herbig
Steelers, Nick Herbig / John Fisher/GettyImages

Nick Herbig was a player who always sticks out when you watch Wisconsin game film. Despite outrageous college production in the Big Ten, the talented edge defender slid down draft boards due to his overall lack of size and length. This eventually resulted in the Steelers selecting him with the 132nd overall pick in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Herbig, a Hawaii native, was a former four-star recruit out of St Louis High School in Honolulu. He was the 9th outside linebacker recruit from the 2020 class (143rd overall nationally), according to 247Sports. Herbig was once talked about as being a future high draft choice, but major concerns about his size caused him to plummet following the NFL Combine, and many teams believe he will require a position change in the NFL. Here's my full scouting report:


  • Innate and unteachable ability to get after the quarterback
  • Elite production behind the line of scrimmage, 21 sacks, and 36 TFLs in 31 games
  • Outstanding effort/hustle on nearly every play
  • Fantastic ability to time the snap with a great initial burst
  • Shifty and slippery as a pass rusher, hard for tackles to engage him squarely
  • Good overall athlete with smooth movement skills
  • Extremely quick to read and diagnose the play
  • Good with his hands and stronger than his frame would suggest
  • Can drop back into coverage with quick feet and smooth hips
  • Can read a quarterback's eyes and disrupt passing windows
  • Effective rushing of the passer from multiple positions
  • Extremely tough to corral on stunts, easily makes offensive linemen whiff
  • Phenomenal motor and feel for the game should help him on special teams


  • Tiny, compact frame compared to NFL edge defenders, weight in the 3rd percentile
  • Extremely short 31 1/4'' arms (2nd percentile) could make his job much harder
  • An edge defender stuck in an off-ball linebacker's body
  • Tweener body type in a bad way
  • Good but not elite athletic traits
  • May be forced to change roles in the NFL if he struggles to hold up on the edge
  • Limited experience dropping into coverage
  • Can overpursue and miss tackles in space
  • Short arms and small frame will allow tackles to engulf him at times
  • Likely to get washed out of the play in running downs at times if he's on the edge
  • He's an outlier as an EDGE and a complete projection as a LB

2022 Statistics

  • 47 tackles, 15.5 TFLs, 11.0 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles in just 11 games
  • 92.8 pass rush grade, per PFF (second in Big Ten since 2021)

Projected role on the Steelers:

Both Steelers GM Omar Khan and assistant GM Andy Weidl talked about Nick Herbig's position flexibility to play on the edge and as a linebacker. Early in his career, we can expect to see the former Wisconsin standout leave his mark on special teams. It seems likely that Pittsburgh will try him as an edge defender early in his career to see what he offers there. If no other veteran is added at the position for the 2023 season, Herbig could spell T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith of snaps. Down the line, he could make the switch to off-ball linebacker if things aren't going as planned.

NFL player comparison: Zach Baun

Nick Herbig's NFL player comparison might come down to where he projects long-term in the NFL, but it's so hard not to compare him to Zach Baun. Like Herbig, Baun was a former Wisconsin standout with remarkably similar tweener size (6'2'', 238 lbs) and amazing college production. There were also the same questions surrounding Baun entering the NFL as to whether he could play on the edge or if he would need to transition to a full-time off-ball linebacker. Herbig may stand a slightly better chance of sticking on the edge due to his physicality, toughness, and better-than-expected play strength for his size, but this comparison is easy to see.

Next. Steelers scouting report: DT Keeanu Benton. dark

Bottom line: Nick Herbig may be stuck in between positions and could require a chance to off-ball linebacker full-time, but he's just a good football player. His instincts, toughness, and outstanding feel for the game are going to help him succeed on special teams early in his career and eventually carve out a role on defense.