By Jeremy Hritz
Calvin Bundage has been wearing number 33 at Rookie Minicamp and OTAs, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think he was a running back or safety. While Bundage didn’t test amazingly at his Pro Day with a 4.81 40-yard dash, he is a player who cannot be judged based on numbers because of his unique style and pass rushing proclivity. With versatility, playing both inside and outside linebacker spots at Oklahoma State, Bundage is a player to pay close attention to with the Steelers over the course of OTAs, Minicamp, and Training Camp, as there is something distinct in his play that could earn him a spot on the Steelers roster.
While we have already profiled Bundage, his skill set and potential is deserving of greater investigation. Bundage played high school football at Edmund Santa Fe HS in Texas, where early in his career he weighed in around 250 pounds. As a 10th grader, Bundage did not play football and pursued baseball exclusively. Subsequently, he dropped weight and entered his junior year at 190 pounds, returned to football, starting at free safety and earning recognition of college coaches. Ultimately, Bundage found his way to Oklahoma State. He had offers from multiple schools, including Arizona, Arizona State, Oklahoma, and Oregon, but chose to ride with OSU. In his freshmen season, he made an impression on coaches as an inquisitive and intelligent player who asked a multitude of questions and understood concepts more quickly than veteran upperclassmen, showing his ability to pick up defensive concepts and schemes with ease.
Bundage is also a man of optimism, showing the resilience necessary to overcome a back injury that required surgery that kept him out of the 2019 season. While there were concerns if he could ever play again, he persevered and returned to the field, proving to his coaches he was ready to deliver.
In 2020 at Oklahoma State, Bundage led the team with 6.5 sacks and demonstrated that his back injury was behind him. Following the season, he declared for the NFL Draft and was projected as a priority free agent, and signed with the Steelers.
There are several things that make Bundage unique, starting with his experience at both inside and outside linebacker in college, in addition to safety in high school. This varied experience gives him a unique perspective of the game that players restricted to one specific position just don’t have. In addition, he possesses physicality and explosiveness off of the edge, and with his more compact frame, he can get underneath of tackles and attack quarterbacks. Most importantly, in terms of intangibles, Bundage has persistence and has overcome adversity with his unrelenting positive attitude, something that will be needed to make an NFL roster. Possibly, the Steelers see Bundage as a hybrid player, with the ability to move around to different positions, and maybe he will have an adaptive role in defensive subpackages.
There is an opportunity at OLB with the Steelers, and it just feels as if something is there with Calvin Bundage. With another year of recovery beyond his surgery, and with NFL coaching, he will be a player to pay close attention to in camp as he could make some noise and be the next camp darling, following in the footsteps of Adrian Robinson or Tuzar Skipper.
One thing is for certain: he has an army of fans at Oklahoma State cheering for him, and it speaks to the connections he has made with fans and fellow players as an upstanding human being.
The opportunity is there for the taking—will Bundage get it done?