Several years ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers defense was known for its aggressive play and slew of physical, tone-setting tacklers. That, however, hasn’t been the case recently. Rookie linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, however, is going to turn back the clocks.
A 2014 sixth-round pick out of UCLA, Zumwalt will bring more for the Steelers than they ever could have expected from a relatively-unknown linebacker prospect.
During his days with the Bruins, Zumwalt was a devastating hitter who loved to strike fear in opponents. Whenever the opportunity arose, he rocked opposing ball carriers – and he did it legally. If you want evidence of his hitting power, just watch a few of his games from last year, particularly the Virginia Tech film. Put simply, Zumwalt knows how to make sure opponents remember him.
That is exactly what the Steelers have been missing over the last few seasons, and it’s time that changed. The turning of the tide all starts with Zumwalt.
While he’s currently behind Chris Carter and Arthur Moats on the outside linebacker depth chart, Zumwalt should have every opportunity to make his presence felt on special teams this season. He saw plenty of work on kick coverage in 2013, and should have no trouble taking the “wrecking ball” approach during the 2014 campaign.
Don’t, however, expect Zumwalt to be stuck on special teams forever. He still has some work to do in terms of technique and isn’t an elite athlete, but the UCLA product is a smart, instinctive playmaker who flies to the football and does a great job of clogging running lanes. Even in coverage, Zumwalt displays good awareness, routinely putting himself in position to get his hands on the football.
Before long, Zumwalt will find an opportunity to crack the starting lineup – either outside or inside. When the opportunity arises, you can bet he’ll quickly assert his dominance and help revitalize a once-proud Steelers defense.
As of late, the Steelers have been the nail instead of the hammer. Zumwalt is the first step towards putting Pittsburgh back on the correct side of that metaphor.