The detection of landmarks or patterns is of interest for extracting features in biological images. Hence, algorithms for finding these keypoints have been extensively investigated in the literature, and their localization and detection properties are well known. In this paper, we study the complementary topic of local orientation estimation, which has not received similar attention. Simply stated, the problem that we address is the following: estimate the angle of rotation of a pattern with steerable filters centered at the same location, where the image is corrupted by colored isotropic Gaussian noise. For this problem, we propose an estimator formulated as linear combinations of circular harmonics with given radial profiles. We prove that the proposed estimator is unbiased. This property allows us to use a statistical framework based on the Cramer-Rao lower bound (CRLB) to study the limits on the accuracy of the corresponding class of estimators. We aim at evaluating the performance of detection methods based on steerable filters in terms of angular accuracy (as a lower bound), while considering the connection to maximum likelihood estimation. Beyond the general results, we analyze the asymptotic behavior of the lower bound in terms of the order of steerablility and propose an optimal subset of components that minimizes the bound. We define a mechanism for selecting optimal subspaces of the span of the detectors. These are characterized by the most relevant angular frequencies. Finally, we project our template to the span of circular harmonics with given radial profiles and experimentally show that the prediction accuracy achieves the predicted CRLB. As an extension, we also consider steerable wavelet detectors.