By Jeremy Hritz
While most of the conversations in terms of thinnest position for the Steelers focus on cornerback, a more discerning look reveals that the stockpile at outside linebacker/edge has been parsed by free agency, and has still not been replenished despite an effort in the draft. While Quincey Roche can develop into a rotational #3 outside linebacker, he needs the space and time to develop; resultantly, the team is still in need of a mid-tier, veteran free agent.
Yesterday, it was revealed that the Steelers were sniffing around the leftovers, as they were linked to Ryan Kerrigan, who signed with the Eagles. Knowing this, a signing at the position could be imminent, with the team snatching up one of the names still available at edge (Derek Rivers, Vic Beasley, Melvin Ingram, and Anthony Chickillo to name a few).
But something to make note of in relevance to the outside backer position is the signing of undrafted rookie free agent, Calvin Bundage, out of Oklahoma State, a player who possesses the versatility that the Steelers treasure, and a burst that could make him a situational pass rusher who can eventually, over time, work himself into the OLB rotation.
Measuring in at 6’2, 221 pounds, Bundage has a compact frame he couples with his bend to work underneath and around offensive tackles, and on top of that, he has the burst to get to his target with immediacy and urgency—a violently quick see-to-do. At Oklahoma State in 2020, following an injury that cost him all of 2019, Bundage assumed a primary role of edge rusher in which he posted 7 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss.
Earlier in his career at Oklahoma State, Bundage played primarily inside backer successfully, and this enhances his available skill set which empowers defensive coaches to utilize his talents in multiple ways.
Where Bundage must grow his game, in addition to proving his durability, is developing his strength and size to deal with this physicality of professional offensive linemen, and ultimately, learning the intricacies of playing the outside linebacker position. Where Bundage can carve out a role for himself is by doubling down on his strengths and mastering his pass rushing abilities while learning the game as an NFL edge. It will also benefit him if he can assert himself as a fearless demon on special teams. Should he be able to do that, he can earn himself a spot on the practice squad, continue to get repetitions and experience, and possibly battle for a roster spot late in the season.
This is the wonder and mystery of the NFL draft and undrafted free agents: you never know what story will be told when the player gets on the field. For Bundage, he is coming to a team at a position of need with explosiveness off of the edge that anyone would desire. It is the perfect example of where opportunity and a player’s unique talent align.
Don’t be surprised to see Bundage stick around, as he is talented.
Good luck to Calvin in his pursuit of a roster spot. And, oh yeah, quarterbacks, too.