For as much discussion as there always is among fans about players moving from one position to another, it is the rare player that actually is capable of making a successful transition, and fewer still those who actually do. Some of those players, you might not even clearly define what his role is.
So far, it’s not obvious that the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking that approach with their newest signing, Mark Barron. All signs point to them having signed him and brought him in to play inside linebacker for him, rather than as some type of hybrid dimebacker, given that he is a former safety, and even wore number 26 while with the Los Angeles Rams.
The day he signed, he sat down with Missi Matthews for an interview with the team’s website. When she asked him what the team told him about what his role would be, he said that it would be “one of the linebackers. One of the inside linebackers positions. That’s pretty much it. We haven’t gone into extensive conversations on it, but, you know, one of those inside linebacker positions”.
Of course, during his press conference from earlier in that day, he was also asked if he expected to a three-down linebacker. His response was that he didn’t think he would be coming off the field. Right now, the smart money is that they have him pegged as the starting Mack linebacker for now, but are open to a rookie coming in and competing if he’s deserving.
While they don’t intend to play him as a defensive back, the Steelers are still hoping that his history in coverage will be an asset. He does have eight interceptions in his career, including five between 2016 and 2017, though he had none a year ago.
But the Rams were looking to get him on the field more, so when starting linebacker Alec Ogletree was injured, he says the coaches just put him out there without saying much about it, and he’s being doing it ever since.
“It wasn’t really difficult”, he said of adjusting to playing the linebacker position, for one reason in particular. “I was already physical player, so I was physical enough to go down there from the safety spot, so they just threw me in there and told me to go”.
In fact, “physicality” was also the first word that came to mind when prompted about what assets he felt he would bring to the team. “My style of play, I feel like it says a lot, the way I play football. I feel like I fit in well here too. There’s a lot of physicality, hard-nosed guys, tough guys”.
As he comes into the locker room, he will already be one of the hardest hitters on the roster, up there with Vince Williams and Stephon Tuitt. He did have four penalties last season, but three were in coverage, and one for roughing the passer, which is rather easy to do these days.