The Pittsburgh Steelers were hot on the recruiting trail again, and this time they were in a very familiar place — the Ohio State University.
The Steelers and the Buckeyes have a ridiculously long history which goes well beyond Cameron Heyward and Ryan Shazier, and the heavy brass, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert, were present and paying attention to the prospects.
Of all the athletes, there was one player who the Steelers paid close attention to — linebacker Jerome Baker.
Linebacker Jerome Baker also stood on his combine numbers, though he did tip the scales at 234 pounds today, five pounds above his combine weight. Baker interviewed with the New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Steelers showing interest in Baker, an outside linebacker, shouldn’t shock anyone considering their need for players at the position, even if just as depth. Baker is considered a Day 2 prospect, but has many attributes which could help the Steelers in 2018 and beyond.
However, if the Steelers were to take Baker throughout the selection process, the team wouldn’t likely use him strictly as an EDGE pass rusher. Rather, he would be a great fit to be a sub package specialist who can roam and make plays using his speed and athleticism. No strictly as a pure pass rusher, where he often struggles.
Check out his strengths and weakness, per his NFL Draft Profile:
Moves fluidly and fast. Has hip looseness and footwork to flow around the field. Has trigger burst to flash from backside and close down running lanes. Tremendously rangy as tackler. Change of direction comes easily. Capable of eluding blockers with quick lateral movement. Takes efficient paths to the ball. Sifts and works through traffic bouncing in and out of gaps. Has athletic ability to handle premium athletes in space. Shadowed Saquon Barkley for most of the game and helped keep him in check. Talented in space with footwork to match receivers in space and hands to take the ball. Can carry vertical receivers down the field. Able to outrun mistakes and slow diagnosis.
Skinny frame and gets engulfed by size. Looks small, plays small. Lacks functional play strength and sturdy base to withstand power. Must improve hand work to keep himself clean. Gets glued to blocks. Slow to diagnose and instincts are below par. Lingers on second level rather than bringing it to running backs. Lack of size and nastiness could be a concern on run downs against bully-ball rush attacks. Loses gap leverage and gets knocked around the field. Ducks head into contact. Has too many hit and slide tackle attempts. Gets caught flowing past his run fits. Motor can be inconsistent and will loaf at times in space.
Baker isn’t the only player the Steelers likely kept an eye on during the event, but was someone the organization targeted in meetings and spent extra time with.
Stay tuned to BTSC for the latest on the team’s Pro Day visits, pre-draft visitors and more!