Steelers steal Payton Wilson in Round 3 of the 2024 NFL Draft

NFL Combine
NFL Combine / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

With the 98th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected NC State linebacker, Payton Wilson. The athletic linebacker slipped in the draft due to medical concerns, but nobody expected him to be available late in the third round.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that Wilson has a serious knee issue and a shoulder injury. Wilson has had two ACL tears and has stabilizers in his knee. These injury concerns raise questions about his longevity in the NFL. When you combined with his age (24), this forced him to slip in late on Day 2 of the draft.

The Steelers were happy to pick up the pieces.

While Wilson isn't guaranteed to have a long NFL career, he's as dynamic as they come at the linebacker position in terms of making plays. In 2023, Wilson racked up 138 tackles, 3 interceptions, and a defensive touchdown in 12 games.

Wilson's athletic traits help him pop on film. At the NFL Combine, Wilson blazed with a 4.43 40-yard dash at 6'3 7/8'' and 233 pounds. This speed shows up constantly on the football field.

The NC State product also has an outstanding feel for man and zone coverage -- grading out as one of the best coverage linebackers in the nation, per Pro Football Focus. This could help him see the field early in his NFL career.

How does Payton Wilson fit with the Steelers?

As a rookie, the Pittsburgh Steelers may look to ease Payton Wilson into action. Because of the ailments he has been dealing with, there's no need to rush him on the field.

The Steelers paid Patrick Queen in free agency, and Elandon Roberts was a reliable linebacker for them last year. Meanwhile, Cole Holcomb is recovering from a serious knee injury and may not see the field early in the season. This could lead to some subpackage work for Wilson.

Wilson performs best in the open field where he can read the play and react. He's not going to offer much when it comes to shedding blocks, but he's slippery thanks to his tremendous athletic traits. he could help the Steelers on passing downs thanks to his coverage ability.

The Pittsburgh Steelers need to be careful not to overload Payton Wilson with snaps early in his career. If he stays healthy, he could be an incredible asset to their team. Wilson was one of the most talented players on the board when they were on the clock late in Round 3, and they were willing to take the gamble. Let's hope it pays off.