‘Nasty Nate’ Herbig wants the Steelers |
Nate Herbig was nicknamed the “Big Island” by his Stanford teammates, a nod to his immense size and home state of Hawaii. Ever since he joined the NFL, teammates have taken to the nickname “Nasty Nate” for his awkward manner in the trenches.
Whatever his new Steelers teammates call him, it’s not hard to figure out how Herbig got one of his nicknames. At 6-foot-4 and 334 pounds, Herbig is straight out of central casting for an NFL guard. And he’s not shy about showing his affinity for gaming with a mean demeanor either.
“I love to play football,” Herbig said Thursday afternoon after signing as a free agent with the Steelers. “I feel like football is played a certain way and I’m going to play it that way – old school, battering maw. i like the stuff As you can see, this is what I was built for.”
Soccer is a way of life in Hawaii. Herbig attended Saint Louis High School in Honolulu, the island’s most famous football factory that has produced 18 NFL players. Alumni of the school include former Steelers defensive tackle Tyson Alualu, former Steelers running back Christian Fuamatu-Ma’afala, and current NFL quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Marcus Mariota.
Stanford signed Herbig and received the Cardinal’s All-America honors as a freshman. He was named a first-team All-Pac 12 after his sophomore season and a second-team All-Pac 12 after his junior season. It seemed like he was on the fast track to the NFL.
Herbig decided to get into the design early, but the preliminary design process damaged its existence. A slow 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine (5.40) and several other perceived limitations in his game convinced the league’s general managers and coaches that he wasn’t draft material.
The experience shaped Herbig’s journey in the NFL.
“I definitely have a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I feel like people label me or say my limitations and stuff, so every year I just try to work, improve and just be a player. A real player.”
Steeler’s assistant general manager Andy Weidl has always believed in Herbig. He worked in the Philadelphia front office in 2019, convincing the Eagles to sign him as an undrafted free agent. It wasn’t long before Herbig’s relentless style endeared him to Eagles coaches.
In his sophomore NFL season, he started 12 games as a right guard when the Eagles sustained injuries on the inside of their offensive line. He again started five more games in his third season as the Eagles struggled up front with injuries.
The drafting of Landon Dickerson and Cam Jurgens made Herbig expendable, but when the Eagles cut him last spring, All-Pro center Jason Kelce sang his praises.
“Herbie is a great teammate, a great player,” said Kelce. “He’s always been able to go out and do his job regardless of who we’re playing against or what we expect from him. These are tough. When you find guys like that, they have real value.”
Jets GM Joe Douglas, who was also in the Philadelphia front office with Weidl in 2019, called for waivers from Herbig the day after the Eagles fired him.
Herbig did the same thing in New York as he did in Philadelphia. When Jets starting guard Alijah Vera-Tucker suffered a season-ending injury, Herbig stepped in and started 11 games.
“I love his mentality and the way he approaches the game,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said last fall. “He’s evil. He’s everything you want in an offensive lineman.”
When Herbig became a free agent earlier this week, it wasn’t long before he got back together with Weidl. He agreed to the terms Tuesday just hours after the NFL’s statutory tampering period began.
“Andy Weidl is the GOAT”, said Herbig. “He’s the man. He was in Philly when I was in Philly and we kind of have that connection.”
It remains to be seen how the Steelers plan to use Herbig, but they signed a two-year, $8 million deal with a $4 million guarantee. At the very least, it will provide quality depth in the guard and midsection. (He also served as Kelce’s backup in Philadelphia.)
But the Steelers could have intentions for Herbig to unseat Kevin Dotson from left guard. Dotson, a fourth-round pick in 2020, became a starter last season but he’s entering the final year of his rookie contract.
If Dotson is on the list in 2023, he’ll make $2.74 million, but they can save $2.6 million by laying him off. Given his lack of versatility, there would be little point in keeping Dotson on the roster unless he’s the starting left guard.
Herbig’s signing also doesn’t bode well for Kendrick Green, the Steelers’ third-round pick in 2020. Green started as a rookie at center but switched to guard last year and has been a healthy scratch for every game.
When asked Thursday if the opportunity to start with the Steelers made him want to sign with them, Herbig replied, “I’m ready to play football. We’ll find out.”