The Steelers need help on the offensive side of the ball, but here’s why Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun would be hard to pass on.
There is no question that the Steelers need the most work on the offensive side of the ball. Pittsburgh struggled to sustain drives last season, and they never scored more than 27 points in a game all year. Their 10 points per game over their last three contests was dead last in the NFL, and the Steelers were 30th in the league in total offensive yardage in 2019.
Even with the inevitable return of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, there is no doubt Pittsburgh could use added depth at nearly every offensive position. However, if Wisconsin linebacker, Zack Baun, falls to the Steelers at pick 49, he may be worth ignoring a few positions of need in the second round.
After a six-hour film session on Tuesday night, I came away thoroughly impressed with Baun. The versatile defender was mostly a rush linebacker off the edge for the Badgers. However, he has the ability to line up at a number of different spots on the field.
At the Senior Bowl weigh-ins, Baun measured in at just shy of 6’2 1/2” and weighed 240 pounds. His hybrid size measurables combined with just 32 1/8” arms would make most 4-3 teams hesitate before drafting a player like Baun. This is exactly why Pittsburgh may be able to steal him in the second round.
Even for a base 3-4 defense, Baun is a bit undersized as an outside linebacker. However, his fluid movement skills and ability to drop into zone coverage suggest that he can be far more than a rotational edge rusher for the Steelers.
In Pittsburgh, Baun could play three of the four linebacker positions (right edge, left edge, and Buck). He is a player that would excel at Buck linebacker next to Devin Bush, but could kick outside and rush the quarterback on obvious passing downs.
Baun had insane production during his senior season – compiling 75 tackles,19.5 tackles for a loss, and 12.5 sacks. He even returned an interception 34 yards for a defensive touchdown. When you combine these numbers with a player that shows bend off the edge and hip fluidity to turn and run with skill players, you get a guy that would be incredibly hard to pass on.
Most 4-3 teams will make the mistake of taking Baun off their draft boards because he doesn’t fit their size and length requirements. But their loss is Pittsburgh’s gain. Baun was used much like T.J. Watt for the Wisconsin Badgers, and was even more productive in college. He could be a long-time NFL starter at as an inside or outside linebacker for the Steelers.
It’s still very early to in the draft process to get a good gauge of where Baun may end up going in April. If he tests extremely well at the NFL Combine, the Steelers may not get a chance at him. However, if they do, it would be hard to pass him up – even with their offensive needs.