A large number of prospects made themselves quite a bit of money last week during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, putting up some rather impressive testing numbers, showing the entire NFL what type of athletes they truly are.
Of course, it’s important to not try and take away *too* much from the underwear Olympics, but it’s hard to overlook some of the performances that were put on display inside Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis last week.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were certainly watching closely as some players in key positions turned in eye-popping performances. Now, days removed from the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, the Steelers are being labeled as an “ideal landing spot” for a pair of prospects that really turned heads, according to Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine.
Those two prospects would be Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder, and Virginia Tech EDGE Amare Barno.
Ridder is a no-brainer, considering the Steelers’ need at the position, not to mention the work they’ve already done on Ridder at this point. One of the top quarterbacks in the class and arguably one of the most pro-ready of the group, Ridder put on a show throughout the week in Indianapolis, reportedly blowing away teams in the interview process before then putting together one of the best athletic showings in Combine history for a QB, at least according to the Relative Athletic Score.
“Malik Willis gets a lot of the recognition as the toolsy, athletic quarterback in this class, but Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder shouldn’t be counted out for that designation. His workout numbers saw him post a 9.8 relative athletic score,” Ballentine writes. “The highlight of his athletic testing was a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, but Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported he also impressed teams in the interview process, which might be the most important for quarterbacks.
“The Bleacher Report Scouting Department already has Ridder as the QB1 of the draft, but that’s far from consensus. Perhaps after what he’s shown at the combine, though, it will become a more popular thought. This class of passers hasn’t created a ton of buzz, but Ridder is a high-upside choice for anyone searching for a potential franchise quarterback.”
The Steelers certainly fall into that category of needing a franchise quarterback, and Ridder checks a lot of the boxes that the Steelers are looking for in the next guy to transition to in the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, leading to Ballentine identifying the Steelers — along with the Denver Broncos (pre-Russell Wilson trade) and Washington Commanders — as an ideal fit for the Cincinnati star.
Defensively, Virginia Tech’s Barno blew people away with his athletic testing, clocking a 4.37 in the 40-yard dash, which is absolutely unheard of from an EDGE defender.
“Running the fastest 40-yard dash time since 2003 of any linebacker or defensive lineman will change that. Barno ran a mind-boggling 4.36-second time at 6’5″ and 246 pounds, a full tenth of a second better than the next fastest edge defender,” Ballentine writes. “The time caught the attention of analysts, as his athletic profile has been compared to Danielle Hunter and Brian Burns.
“Barno is fairly unpolished at this point. Despite the deadly speed and length combo that he brings to the table, he only registered 10 sacks in two seasons with Virginia Tech,” Ballentine adds. “However, a team willing to let him be a pure pass-rusher on the outside while he adds some bulk to his frame and learns the position could be rewarded. It will take a creative defensive coordinator to get the most out of him, but he proved he’s worth a developmental role in the middle rounds.”
The Steelers find themselves in search of a true No. 3 outside linebacker behind the likes of All-Pro and Defensive Player of the Year award winner TJ Watt and promising third-year pass rusher Alex Highsmith. Though Barno is a bit raw and needs to do some developing overall, you can’t teach his size and speed. Bet on traits, especially at pass rusher.
Along with the Steelers being listed as an ideal landing spot by Ballentine, the B/R writer also pegs the Las Vegas Raiders and New York Giants as ideal landing spots for the fast, physical Barno.