The Pittsburgh Steelers are gearing up for week two of OTAs and although there will be plenty of players to keep an eye on, one in particular is already generating some publicity.
Sixth-round pick Jordan Zumwalt seems to be the player to watch this offseason. The linebacker out of UCLA hasn’t even attended OTAs yet (due to UCLA’s graduation) but has already been pegged as an upcoming “fan favorite.”
Zumwalt is the type of linebacker that’ll deliver highlight reel hits. His hit against Virginia Tech’s quarterback, Logan Thomas, took YouTube by storm and he has that linebacker mentality that was with the Steelers back in the 1970’s.
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported during rookie camp that the Steelers were working Zumwalt as an inside and outside linebacker. Predominately an inside guy, the Steelers are in need of an outside guy and training Zumwalt as one is a direction they may go.
After drafting inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, there may be more opportunities for Zumwalt to succeed on the outside rather than inside. Shazier is already working with the first team defense during OTAs which leads me to believe it’s his position to lose.
Zumwalt will have a chance to compete with the outside linebackers and could emerge as a favorite late in the season. He’s surely destined to be a special teams player in the early going and that’s perfectly fine. Having Zumwalt cause havoc on special teams with his smash mouth style is a boost any special teams could use.
His play on special teams could lead to bigger and better things. He has the potential to beat out the likes of Terrence Garvin and although he’s behind guys like newly acquired Arthur Moats, he’s a young, hungry player who if he wants, just may get it.
Last draft the Steelers invested their sixth-round pick in a linebacker as well. The team took Vince Williams, who found himself getting playing time after Larry Foote went down in the very first game of the season. Williams found little success and he’s already taken a back seat to Shazier in OTAs.
This begs the question of whether the team still sees Williams as someone who can contribute to this team. They may, or they may not. Zumwalt seeing early action at both inside and outside during rookie camp are good signs the team’s confident in his skills.
This is still speculation and Williams still has a chance to be productive, but it’ll be interesting to see just what kind of impact Zumwalt has once he arrives to OTAs and what will happen when training camp comes around.
Zumwalt has a lot of upside about him and should be the top player for the special team units this season. He’s the guy you want to watch this offseason.