Free Agency: How Herbig fits with the Steelers

Nate Herbig, G, 5th season, 6-4, 334 pounds

In free agent signing Nate Herbig, the Steelers get a versatile interior lineman who is a pure road grader.

Herbig played three seasons with the Eagles, who signed him as an undrafted rookie in 2019 out of Stanford.

The 24-year-old native of Hawaii didn't wow anyone with his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, running a 5.41-second 40-yard dash and an 8.14-second three-cone drill. But he did post 29 repetitions on the bench press, hinting at his great core strength, something that has shown in the NFL.

But this is a player who creates leverage in the running game. He is a mauling blocker in the run game. And the Steelers averaged nearly 150 yards rushing per game over their final nine games in 2022. This signing would seem to signal the team wants to continue down that path, using running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren as straight-downhill thumpers.

The Eagles tendered a restricted free agent offer to Herbig in 2022, but later rescinded the offer and he was claimed by the Jets.

Herbig wound up starting 11 games for the Jets in 2022, giving him 28 career starts in 42 appearances.

In his career, he's played 1,648 snaps at right guard, 377 at left guard and 49 at center. So he offers position flexibility, something every team needs.

The Steelers' starting offensive linemen missed less than 100 combined snaps in 2022. They had the same starting five for all 17 of their games. To expect that to happen again would be folly.

And Herbig gives them another player to add to the equation who has performed at a high level. In his more than 2,000 career snaps, he's allowed just four sacks and committed only 11 penalties.

The Steelers added James Daniels in free agency last season and immediately inserted him at right guard. So, it doesn't figure that Herbig will get an opportunity to compete at the position at which he has the most NFL experience.

And his limited snaps at center aren't going to challenge Mason Cole for that spot, either.

But the Steelers did have an open competition at left guard in training camp last season between Kevin Dotson and Kendrick Green, with Dotson eventually winning the job.

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The Steelers could have another such competition this year, with Herbig challenging Dotson for a starting role and the winner becoming the top backup at both guard spots.

At the very least, with his versatility Herbig is no worse than the top interior line backup on game days, a valuable job on any team.

This signing signals that the Steelers are intent on running the ball in 2023 as they did in the second half of the 2022 season.