The Jets recently signed offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher to a futures deal. Today we break him down in detail.
The 26-year old Pierschbacher is listed at 6’4” and 315 pounds and was a fifth round draft pick out of Alabama in 2019. He has played in eight NFL games and has been in the Jets organization since they signed him to their practice squad in September.
Pierschbacher was a four-star recruit out of high school and was originally going to attend Iowa but then changed his mind and opted to attend Alabama, where he redshirted his freshman season.
Over the next four seasons, Pierschbacher was a full-time starter and set a school record by starting 57 games in his career.
He played guard for three years, earning second team all-SEC honors in 2016 and first team honors in 2017. He then moved to center for his redshirt senior season and was a second team all-American.
Pierschbacher participated in the senior bowl and the scouting combine and was widely regarded as a possible mid-round pick. Sure enough, Washington drafted him in the fifth round.
In his rookie year, Pierschbacher stayed on the roster all year but only played in five games and didn’t see the field on offense.
In 2020, he was released in final cuts and signed to the practice squad, from where he was elevated for one game but did not play. However, at the end of the year, the Eagles poached him and he played in the last three games of the season, including one snap on offense.
After the Eagles released him in final cuts, he spent the entire season on the Jets’ practice squad and was elevated for the last game of the season, although he didn’t play. He re-signed to a futures deal the day after the season finale.
Now let’s take a look at what Pierschbacher brings to the table, divided into categories.
Pierschbacher has an impressive frame, although he has extremely short arms for an offensive lineman.
He isn’t regarded as much of an athlete but in his combine workout, he ran a 5.2 in the 40-yard dash and posted adequate agility numbers to improve his chances of getting drafted.
However, his explosiveness numbers were extremely poor. He posted a 22.5-inch vertical and then when he tried to improve on this at his pro day, he only upped it to 23 inches. He didn’t even attempt a broad jump.
He doesn’t display particularly impressive strength on the field either and posted 20 bench press reps which is below average for his position.
Pierschbacher has mostly played at center at the NFL level and presumably would only have entered the final game of the year at that position if Dan Feeney got hurt (or multiple guards went down and Feeney had to move to guard).
He did play five snaps at left guard and seven at left guard in the first preseason game this year, but otherwise all his preseason reps have been at center.
In college, he started 40 games at left guard and two at right guard before moving to center for his final season. He also played 13 snaps at tackle, presumably either in an emergency or an unbalanced set of some kind.
Pierschbacher put up solid pass protection numbers in college where he never gave up more than two sacks in a season. In fact, he gave up just six sacks in his career in over 1,800 pass block snaps. He developed over the course of his career too, as he gave up a career-low eight pressures in his final season.
In preseason action, he has held up quite well too, although he did get beaten for a couple of pressures.
Pierschbacher’s athletic limitations and short arms can be issues in pass protection as he perhaps lacks the lateral quickness to recover if he loses leverage.
On this play, Albert Huggins’ first step is too quick for him and he gets across his face to leverage upfield for the sack.
Here he tries to recover after his man stunts inside but doesn’t have the strength or footspeed to get himself back in front of his man.
Pierschbacher was on a dominant run blocking line with the Crimson Tide, obviously surrounded by NFL-level talent and with NFL runners carrying the ball.
He looked good within this role at times though. On this play, he controls the nose tackle with the right guard’s assistance and drives him onto his knees.
He also had the ability to block on the move, either climbing to the second level, moving lateral in zone blocking situations or pulling and trapping as he does here.
Pierschbacher’s best trait as a run blocker is his consistency because he’s not someone who will blow an assignment or get embarrassed very often, although at the same time you won’t see too many highlight reel pancake blocks from him.
Alabama had plenty of success in short yardage situations, but Pierschbacher wasn’t particularly a player who would get much of a push and is perhaps more effective on the move in such situations.
He is pretty effective with his initial pop but his overall drive strength is underwhelming. However, he does work well in combination with his linemates.
While not known for his athletic ability, Pierschbacher has shown an ability to get out in front of a screen pass.
However, when he does so, whether or not he can find a player to block in space can be a bit hit and miss.
Technically, Pierschbacher is pretty solid but does show flaws at times. He is balanced on the move and shows an ability to play with a wide base and drop his hips to anchor. However, he isn’t always consistent with this.
At times, he can be too upright, which makes him susceptible to being stood up after the snap or moved off his spot by a bull rush.
The other main issue Pierschbacher has technically is that he has a tendency to bend at the waist and lunge after his man, which is common for players with short arms. This can lead to players falling off his block.
He otherwise has a pretty good understanding of angles and sets his man up well with good footwork when blocking in space.
His hand placement can also be inconsistent, although this is something that perhaps only needs minor tweaks and he’s practiced against some very good linemen at Alabama, Washington and Philadelphia to hone these skills.
Pierschbacher’s on-field discipline got better over the course of his career at Alabama. He had six tackles in his first year, but then just five over the next three seasons.
In his final year, he had one false start and one holding penalty after Daylon Mack from Texas A&M got by him in pass protection.
Pierschbacher’s only special teams contributions with the Crimson Tide and at the NFL level have been as a blocker on the placekicking unit. As a four-year starter, he didn’t get a chance to play on any other units.
When Pierschbacher arrived in Washington, offensive line coach Bill Callahan was reportedly blown away by his intelligence and, as noted, he doesn’t blow many assignments.
He was pretty good at picking up stunts and twists in college, although this has been more of a challenge at the NFL level. If employed as the spare man in pass protection, he’s pretty good at identifying who needs help.
Pierschbacher has good character and was a team captain at Alabama, where he became more of a vocal leader when he took over from Ryan Kelly as the starting center in his final season.
The book on him is that he doesn’t display much of a nasty side, but he has toughness, plays to the whistle and will go “looking for work”.
As noted, Pierschbacher set the all-time record for most starts at Alabama, but he did have a couple of issues in his junior year as he missed some time with a high ankle sprain and was knocked out of the team’s bowl game with a knee injury.
Alabama’s blocking schemes have typically been zone-heavy but they do operate a multiple, varied scheme so he’s well versed in the art of pulling and trapping too. He’s probably a better fit in an inside zone scheme than the outside zone schemes the Jets tend to favor though.
At Alabama, he was a teammate of Quinnen Williams and he’s also been a teammate of current Jet Elijah Riley and pending free agents Joe Flacco and Morgan Moses.
Pierschbacher is probably not a player who is in the Jets’ immediate plans but traits like experience, consistency and character make him the sort of player you would want as part of the camp competition.
He’s not someone with much upside but has been someone who can come in and be solid when there are perhaps more dominant players on the line with him, so could be a valuable emergency reserve in the right circumstances.
In camp, the goal for Pierschbacher will be to convince the Jets of how dependable he is with a view to earning a depth role or practice squad spot next season.