No bull: Isaiahh Loudermilk shows as rookie what Steelers saw in trading up to draft him

Despite his roots in Great Plains and his college in America’s dairy land, Isaiahh Loudermilk’s choice of home decor isn’t supposed to represent a passion for life as a farmer or grower.

Loudermilk laughed when asked last week if black and white mattered A framed picture of a horned bull hanging on its wall It acts as a background for a video conference call with the media.

“No, it’s just a decoration I found at Target, and I loved it,” said Laudermilk.

Bearing in mind Loudermilk’s standing as a fifth-round pick, his rookie season for the Pittsburgh Steelers was on target.

A 6-foot-7, 240-pound defensive lineman, Laudermilk not only made the team and stayed on the 53-man roster all season (not a small feat for someone who ranked 156th overall), but made his way into a meaningful part of the Rotation on the defensive line at the end of the season.

In a position that needs a pumping of talented youngsters, Loudermilk has done nothing as a rookie to disprove his appearance as a potential future rookie.

“I think he’s going to end up being a really good player for us,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said earlier this month. “It’s just a process he’s going through now to become a good player.”

A Kansas native who played in college in Wisconsin, Laudermilk finished his rookie season with 23 cutouts (16 singles), three knockout passes and a sack playing 29% of the Steelers’ defensive hits. Having been a healthy scratcher in the first week, Loudermilk has played in 17 of the Steelers’ last 18 games — including three high-profile tackles during their playoff loss last week at the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Steelers clearly saw something they loved in Loudermilk, targeting him in last year’s draft that they gave up in the 2022 fourth round when the Miami Dolphins were on the clock in the fifth.

But even if the Steelers’ coaches had seen what they thought was a perfect fit for their scheme for Loudermilk – the phrase “reminds me of Cameron Hayward” has been discarded more than once – they couldn’t have envisioned Loudermilk playing an important role as a rookie.

After all, the Steelers entered 2021 with a solid defensive line loaded with veterans from Heyward, Stefon Tweet and Tyson Alualu. But while Heyward was back from All-Pro in 2021, Alualu and Tuitt got together for one full match between them due to injury.

“Coming up, I wasn’t sure, really, what to expect,” Laudermilk said of his rookie season. “I knew if I was going to get some playing time it wouldn’t be much. And then it all happened, injuries and rough like that, so I was kind of thrown in there. I was ready for just about anything, but I wouldn’t say I was really expecting to get Same amount as I got. But kind of happy I did. I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a player, actually I was able to go out and play.”

By the end of the season, Laudermilk showed enough that he was regularly serving as a back-up in the defensive line. He’s scaled the depth chart to a handful of more experienced players who started the season before him, even showing enough value that the Steelers could feel comfortable releasing third-year streak Isaiah Buggs.

Loudermilk’s junior season was far from perfect, but it showed what the Steelers seemed to love: his height, his on-field know-how, and his slippery ability to shake off barriers. Considered a long-term “project” when drafted, Loudermilk showed in 2021 that he could fit in, at worst, as an NFL League defensive lineman.

“I’m looking for him to take the next step,” Heyward said, adding that he liked what he saw from Loudermilk. “But there is more to be done. What I like is great, but what I expect is even better.”

Chris Adamsky is a Tribune Review writer. You can contact Chris via email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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