With the other two veteran starters in position due to injury, Cameron Heyward has often been playing alongside inexperienced players this season.
Heyward is a two-time first-team NFL All Pro. To show how often Isaiah Loudermilk plays as a rookie, for example, consider that Loudermilk (a fifth-round pick) is on track to get about as many defensive snaps as Heyward (a 2011 first-rounder) in his first season.
“When I was first called up I didn’t know what my playing time would be, what my role would be,” said Loudermilk, for whom the Steelers were actively seeking a 2022 pick to select him at No. 156 in April. . “I just came in a little open-minded — whatever was thrown at me, I’d be prepared.
“With these pictures I’m really happy to get them. … I’m going to try to make the best of it.”
Isaiah Loudermilk’s size was one of the traits that enticed the Steelers to trade on day three of the NFL Draft.https://t.co/uit0WTmpkQ
— Tribune-ReviewSports (@TribSports) May 23, 2021
Loudemilk has averaged nearly 13 snaps per game since making his NFL debut in Week 2. He has five tackles, defended a pass and received his first layoff in last week’s win in Cleveland. (Even if it was just a function of being closest to Baker Mayfield as the latter walked out of the course without a win, consider it karma as Loudermilk was sacked off the board due to a penalty earlier this season).
Although his statistical output is scarce, Loudermilk makes himself noticed in more subjective ways. He’s clearly not out of place so far as a rookie, with Pro Football Focus even rating him as the Steelers’ sixth best defender (out of 20 that played) against the Browns.
“We like the way he’s coming along,” said defensive coordinator Keith Butler.
“Hopefully he can get even better.”
Heyward (the No. 31 pick a decade ago) knows firsthand how the Steelers tend to groom their entry-level defensive linemen—he didn’t start a game until his third season.
“It’s a tough question,” Heyward said of asking Loudermilk to contribute as a rookie, “but I think his shoulders can hold it. … We’ve got guys down, and he’s doing a great job. Comes every day inside, learns, practices hard, uses his hands. And we’re going to need him.”
Loudermilk could have been a healthy scratch all season were it not for injuries to Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu and Carlos Davis. All three are on injured reserve and have played just three games together this season after starting as three of the Steelers’ six best defenses.
“Now that more photos come my way, I see things a little better,” Loudermilk said. “And the practice has also helped a lot. So every week that I go out, I feel a little more confident.
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