Steelers Rookie Earns All-Pro Comparison

The Pittsburgh Steelers' newest inside linebacker was given a legendary comparison.
Feb 29, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; North Carolina State linebacker Payton Wilson (LB30) works out during the 2024 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 29, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; North Carolina State linebacker Payton Wilson (LB30) works out during the 2024 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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PITTSBURGH -- Payton Wilson fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third-round as a lottery ticket. His talent was undeniable but health concerns forced some teams to pass on the fast, experienced linebacker. Now, the talents that made him such a steal are shining as he participates in his first practices as an NFL player.

Steelers inside linebackers coach Aaron Curry went as far as to compare Wilson's speed to one of his legendary teammates - former Seahawks superstar and one of the key cogs in the "Legion of Boom" defenses - Bobby Wagner.

"My background, spent a lot of time with Bobby Wagner. Bobby played fast like that, so seeing that speed, it's really exciting because you know there's going to be some plays that only his speed can make," Curry said. "So I'm excited. I'm looking forward to those opportunities for him."

Curry's been impressed with the way Wilson has approached the game as well. Making the leap from the college game to the NFL isn't easy for anyone but Wilson, who is getting some time to grow as a reserve behind veterans like Patrick Queen, Elandon Roberts and more, is demonstrating a valuable commitment to the details early in his professional career.

"Pre-draft, my note on him was that he's a football junkie and he really is," Curry said. "He meets, he wants to be right, he takes constructive criticism properly, he wants all the answers, he's going to study take on his own, he's going to come in with questions, he'll spend all day in the building if you let him. He's a football junkie, a high football character guy and he's fun to coach."

Wilson figures to be a long-term investment for the Steelers. Over the past two seasons, they've made it a priority to add depth to the inside linebackers room. First they added Cole Holcomb, Roberts and Kwon Alexander to boost them during a 2023 season that eventually saw Roberts as the last man standing with injuries ravaging the room. Then Queen and Wilson entered the mix, giving the team a steady present and long-term future at the position.

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Stephen Thompson

STEPHEN THOMPSON

Stephen Thompson graduated with a bachelor's degree in communications and political science from Pitt in April 2022 after spending four years as a sports writer and editor at The Pitt News, the University of Pittsburgh's independent, student-run newspaper. He primarily worked the Pitt men's basketball beat, and filled in on coverage of football, volleyball, softball, gymnastics and lacrosse, in addition to other sports as needed. His work at The Pitt News has won awards from the Pennsylvania News Media Association and Associated College Press. During the spring and summer of 2021, Stephen interned for Pittsburgh Sports Now, covering baseball in western Pennsylvania. Hailing from Washington D.C., family ties have cultivated a love of Boston's professional teams and Pitt athletics, and a fascination with sports in general.