When seemingly the entire Pittsburgh Steelers front office and coaching staff descended upon Ohio State's pro day in early March, most people assumed it was because they wanted to check out center Nick Mangold and linebacker Bobby Carpenter.
As it turns out, the Steelers came away from draft weekend with a different pair of former Buckeyes stars, selecting wide receiver Santonio Holmes in the first round of the draft and picking up defensive end Mike Kudla as a rookie free agent, one of 12 signed by the team Monday.
The 5-10, 188-pound Holmes was the fastest player at Ohio State's pro day, running a 4.34-second 40-yard dash on the school's notoriously fast track. But Kudla, he was the best at something you can't fake. He holds the school record with a 610-pound bench press.
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau told reporters at the school's pro day that he believes the 6-1, 265-pound Kudla will be a nice fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
"I think he would do well in a system like ours, because he can do a little bit of both," LeBeau said of Kudla, who runs a 4.77-second 40 yard dash. "He can come down and become an end, and he's agile enough to get up and drop. So he's a guy that I think would do well in that type of system."
LeBeau and the Steelers obviously felt strongly enough about that to make Kudla the only linebacker prospect they acquired over the weekend.
Kudla certainly has the strength to hold up against NFL blockers – he bench pressed 225 pounds 42 times at the NFL combine – now the question will be if he has the pass rush skills the Steelers desire in their outside linebackers.
After posting four sacks in half a season as a starter in his junior season, Kudla had 9.5 as a senior, the first time in his career at Ohio State he had been able to stay healthy for an entire season.
He battled a viral infection and a torn labrium in his shoulder earlier in his career.
"Mike's always been a good football player for us," Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock told Scout.com. "He's had some problems with health, staying healthy, and had some injury problems over the years. When he's played, he's always been a good football player for us."
Also signed Monday as rookie free agents were safeties Zach Baker of East Carolina, Jamar Landrom of Tennessee State and West Virginia's Mike Lorello; placekicker Mark Brubaker of East Stroudsburg; tight ends Jonathan Dekker of Princeton and Issac Smolko of Penn State; offensive tackle Nick Hagemann of South Dakota State; cornerback Anthony Madison of Alabama; guard Grayling Love of Arizona State; defensive tackle Scott Paxson of Penn State; and defensive end Lee Vickers of North Alabama.
Courtesy of the Observer-Reporter