Everybody is talking about Minkah Fitzpatrick today, and if they have voice to spare, they might pass it on to T.J. Watt and to Cameron Heyward, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ three blue-chip defenders, all three of whom may make an appearance in the Pro Bowl this year.
But spare a comment, as well, for Mark Barron, the guy who often gets overlooked. He was signed in free agency to a two-year, $12 million deal, before the Steelers traded up in the draft to get Devin Bush. But Barron is still playing a lot, and he had a huge role last night against the Los Angeles Rams. He led the team with 10 tackles and also recorded a pass defensed.
“I most definitely wanted that one, for sure for sure”, he told reporters after the game. Mind you, Barron played for the Rams from 2014 through last season. He was still under contract and they released him, and he was never quite sure why. He’s even said that he believes they wanted to re-sign him.
“I didn’t know where the ball was going”, he insisted, a reference to his potential inside knowledge. “I was just playing ball and reading my keys. That’s all it was”. He referenced the defense’s fantastic performance on possession downs, adding, “I think we were just on top of everything”.
A large number of Barron’s tackles, admittedly, came in coverage, often working against Tyler Higbee to Gerald Everett, and usually for first downs. I believe only one of his tackles actually qualified as a defensive stop. But you need to make the tackle whether it’s a ‘good’ tackle or not.
Barron played the vast majority of the game, which shouldn’t be a surprise. Not only has he been consistently playing the majority of games, it would also make plenty of sense that he would be the most comfortable playing against his former team. Still, again, he insisted that any knowledge he might have about their group wasn’t significant.
“It wasn’t about any information that I gave”, he told reporters when asked if his knowledge had anything to do with the team’s quality defensive performance. “Do not take that away from this defense because it had nothing to do with any information I gave. We just went out and played a great game”.
The Steelers have a luxury to be able to deploy Bush, Barron, and Vince Williams all at inside linebacker, all of whom have different strengths and weaknesses. Figuring out who to play and when is a problem that they wish they had a year ago.
Still, this game meant a little more. “You add the fact it’s my old squad, who I played with most of my career”, he said, and it holds more significance. “I most definitely wanted to go out and make it look the way it did”.