Steelers Rookie LB Jordan Zumwalt Already Comfortable With Defensive Scheme

The Pittsburgh Steelers first of two sixth-round draft picks, linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, will have to miss valuable practice time during the offseason due to NFL graduation rules, but because he played in a 3-4 defense at UCLA, he doesn’t feel like he will be behind when he is able to able to practice again later on in the summer.

“They had some guys that were able to come in early and learn a lot. I wasn’t able to because of the quarters system, but I guess I have an equal advantage to them because I was running it for the past few years,” Zumwalt said after a recent rookie minicamp practice.

During his final two seasons at UCLA, Zumwalt played for defensive coordinator Lou Spanos, who was on the Steelers coaching staff from 1995-2009. Because of that, he feels like he already has a good grasp of the Steelers defense.

“Just different vocabulary, different language,” said Zumwalt, who made 30 starts at UCLA. “You have to learn the different verbiage and things like that, but scheme-wise, its roughly the same.”

After the Steelers chose Zumwalt in the sixth-round, linebackers coach Keith Butler talked about how the young linebacker’s experience in college under Spanos would likely help him at the next level.

“The transition for him will probably be a little bit easier,” said Butler. “Lou Spanos was the coordinator out there last year. They did a lot of similar things that we do. They did some things that normally colleges do so that will be a little bit different for him. A lot of colleges play field defenses, and that is what they did out there a little bit. The nomenclature is a lot of the same so it is probably going to be a pretty easy transition for this kid in terms of trying to learn our defense.”

While Butler also said at that time that he viewed Zumwalt more as an inside linebacker, he reportedly mostly lined up at one of the two outside spots during the weekend rookie minicamp, so we’ll have to wait and see if that sticks when the team reports for training camp.

For now, Zumwalt is just excited to be in Pittsburgh and happy to be playing for Butler.

“He’s the best in the league for a reason,” said Zumwalt of Butler. “He knows everything that he’s talking about. He’s a great man as well, so I get along with him very well.”

  • Addison

    2nd round?

  • dgh57

    Considering I’m hoping he ends up backing up at OLB this is good news!

  • cencalsteeler

    Historically, late rounders don’t stick like previous articles written. This year, like Colbert states, it was a deep draft and we got great value in the latter rounds. I have a feeling a lot of our picks will be here to stay.

  • srdan

    I wanna get excited abou this. But in reality he should be commenting on the special teams playbook.

  • steeltown

    Preseason is going to be interesting

  • chris ward

    Have a feeling Zumwalt is going to be a special teams demon.

  • Aric Brown


  • ApexSteel

    There’s not really a playbook when it comes to special teams… It’s pretty simple actually.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    With the ability of the players to unionize you would think the NCAA would try a new direction to discourage them and make a rule for their benefit. This is like that old US mining law that allows foreign companies to come into the US, mine whatever they want for free, leave a mess and not pay taxes.

    The idea that a player like Zumwalt, that quite frankly isn’t going to be given the benefit of the doubt because he is a low draft choice, is put at a disadvantage in his attempt to get a job by a deal between his school and only prospective employer is absolutely criminal. I’m amazed that anyone goes to these schools if they really want to play football.

    This is a chance for the NCAA to ask the NFL to change a rule that serves no purpose other than hurt the people who go to the NCAA to learn how to work for the NFL. If you can’t do the painless, free things available to help the people you supposedly represent the players really do need to organize just to protect themselves from you.

  • PA2AK

    “…best in the league…”

    Sure hope we still have Butler when LeBeau calls it quits.

  • cencalsteeler

    I’ll throw you a bone to get excited about. Will Zumwalt be the guy who increases the chances of the Steelers letting Chris Carter go? Just sayin…

  • Addison

    Dave changed it. Now I look like the fool haha

  • blue

    Zummy , Steelers Special team Ace


    Right on brother! It is time for Ben to get his own SB MVP…with these spectacular coaches, a veteran line with actual solid battle-proven backups, the crazy amount of power from our 1/4 Ton RB duo, to the blazing speed of our wide outs and special teamers; Ben should have it made…AND with it being the 40th Anniversary of the greatest draft ever! I think you hit the nail on the head…by 2020 we should be sporting 10 rings as our 2nd power dynasty dominates! So it has begun…

    Go Steelers!

  • bonairsfavoriteson


  • bonairsfavoriteson

    I don’t think there is an agreement between the NFL and the schools, ncaa, it is strictly an NFL RULE as far as I can tell. What purpose it serves no one knows , there are not that many quarter schools left any more that I can think of. and most of the players drop out soon as their season ends to get ready for the draft, how many classes does anyone think, clowney, manziel, watkins attended after jan. 1.

  • Bob Loblaw

    There’s a reason he’s taking the time to graduate, and a large part of that is so that the NFL isn’t his only prospective employer. He could easily just say he’s not going to graduate until later (see Ben or Porter), and throw it all in to making it in the NFL and be able to go to camp on time. But how many players actually make it to the NFL for a significant time? The rule probably protects more people by making sure they get their degrees when they can, as many of these guys on the bubble aren’t going to be in the NFL for anywhere close to the amount of time it would take for them to be able to retire afterwards.

    You take away the rule, and you would have a lot of these guys not getting their degrees, and still not making the team. Pressuring these kids to put NFL before school when in reality their chances of making it are slim would be a terrible move.

  • Bob Loblaw

    It protects people who have uncertain careers in the NFL. Clowney and Manziel are the cream of the crop, sixth round not so much. If you’re getting drafted that late, having a degree as a backup plan is a good thing, and this rule allows those few in quarter systems to do so.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    You distract a student from his education for 4 years and then all of a sudden he can’t go to his interview to protect his degree?

    It seems like a cruel joke to me.

  • walter mason

    Ha ha. Although I am also optimistic about this years draft, we say every year the same thing that its the best.


    It’s not as though it has been up against tough competition this past decade, lol. Go Steelers!