Deandre Baker can Have an Instant Impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers Secondary
The Pittsburgh Steelers have several needs heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, with one of the main needs being a cornerback. Deandre Baker could be that guy. They thought by drafting Artie Burns in 2016 that he was a long term solution, but he’s lost his confidence. Now the Steelers need to go back to the drawing board and find someone reliable to start opposite Joe Haden. The answer could come from Athens, Georgia in the form of Baker, who could have an instant impact in the secondary. Baker is the 2018 Jim Thorpe Award winner and has several characteristics the Steelers covet.
Baker is a team player who is explosive and physical for his slight build. He runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and has experience playing both outside and nickel corner. Baker is physical at the line of scrimmage and adept at knocking the receiver off his route. He is equally capable in man, press-man, off-man, and zone coverages. Baker has a high football I.Q. and doesn’t get fooled often. He really improved his closing burst and timing during his final two seasons at Georgia. His strength is in man coverage where he mirrors the receivers every move, and if he gets beat he has a short memory. When it comes to run defense, Baker is a more than willing participant and can really lay the lumber. On perimeter runs, he does a great job of forcing the ball carrier back inside.
While Baker has proven he’s capable of covering bigger receivers in college, he’s going to have to add around 10 pounds to survive in the NFL. The extra muscle will also go a long way helping him hold up in run defense. He’ll also need to refine his technique to hang with the faster receivers he’ll face on a regular basis. If not, Baker will see his career take a similar arc to that of Burns. The last bit of business Baker has to clean up a bit is his aggressive approach to zone coverage. To often, he abandoned his responsibilities to chase the big play. Baker will quickly learn that what he could get away with in college won’t fly in the NFL.
The Bottom Line
Deandre Baker is the kind of impact player the Steelers need, and one who can immediately bolster their secondary. He has great ball skills that would help create the turnovers the defense has been lacking the last few years. Baker has the kind of talent that is worth trading up to get, and for the Steelers, it might be time for them to do just that. The Steelers aren’t that far away from competing for a Super Bowl and adding a player like Baker would help put them over the hump.