The Pittsburgh Steelers’ biggest need this offseason was to find a starting inside linebacker. According to the team’s newest player, Mark Barron, he is that guy. The team made his signing official earlier today, inking him to a two-year, $12 million contract.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) March 19, 2019
“I’m playing linebacker”, he said during his introductory press conference. “As far as what they’ll ask me to do, I’m not sure, but I’m a versatile guy, I can do whatever’s needed to help this team win”. A bit later on, when asked if he believes he’ll be a three-down linebacker, he said, “yeah, I don’t think I’ll be coming off the field, so…”.
Barron was drafted seventh-overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2012 NFL Draft…as a safety. But he has been playing in the linebacker role for a few years now with a couple of 100-plus-tackle seasons under his belt as well. He was asked about how the Rams, who he was with at the time, discussed that transition with him.
“They didn’t approach me about it. It happened in game”, he said. “Back when Alec Ogletree got hurt, he was the WILL linebacker and at that time I was a guy that they used in certain packages because I wasn’t the starting safety at the time”.
“But they wanted me on the field more, so when Alec went down and that slot opened, and that was a way to just put me on the field”, he went on. “Mostly they just told me to go out there and play football and I’ve been playing linebacker ever since. It wasn’t a thing that was talked about, discussed or anything like that, they just threw me out there and told me to go”.
Had Ogletree never gotten injured, he said, when asked, that it’s possible he might still be playing safety in the NFL today. “I mean, it happened. That’s what happened and I don’t regret anything. I’m not a guy that lives with regret”, he said of making the transition from the position he grew up playing.
“That’s what happened, so I live in the moment and what’s happening and how I can make the best out of what is currently going on in my life. So, I most definitely feel like it was a positive, I feel like my career has been a good career. So, I most definitely I feel like it was a positive”.
Over the course of seven seasons, Barron has recorded 624 tackles to go along with eight interceptions, five forced fumbles, nine sacks, and a safety, which came last season. He missed four games in 2018 and recorded 60 tackles. He failed to register an interception but five of his eight for his career came during the previous two seasons.
It is believed that Barron’s signing will not alter the Steelers’ potential to draft an inside linebacker in the first round even if he and Vince Williams—who had his contract restructured today—start this season. But Barron signed here to play. And to play linebacker, on every down.