When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Northern Illinois defensive end Alan Baxter as undrafted free agent back in late April, he looked like just another name on the transaction sheet that would be lucky to make the practice squad when the final round of cuts are made. Now, after one week of training camp, he has become the buzz of Latrobe.
The 6\’1″, 238-pound Baxter, who is being converted to an outside linebacker, recorded 9.5 sacks in 2012 to go along with two pass breakups and 60 combined tackles. He had a nice Pro Day back in March that included him doing 22 reps on the bench and posting respectable explosion rating of 61.25.
Baxter has apparently been all over the field making hits at Saint Vincent College, and his name is showing up almost daily on Twitter during practice. As of Friday, we also now know that Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is impressed by him.
“Alan Baxter, an outside linebacker,” said Colbert on Movin\’ The Chains when asked if any off-the-radar players have surprised him so far. “He was a defensive end at Northern Illinois; he\’s going to be an outside linebacker for us, No. 45, he\’s flashed some. That\’s one guy, he gets your interest a little bit.”
Baxter was not only a good player at Northern Illinois, but a good student as well. In November of last year, he was named to the Capital One Academic All-District V first team with a 3.61 GPA in finance. He will need those smarts to pick up the Steelers difficult defense, and so far it appears as though he is making strong strides in doing just yet that.
So what\’s next for Baxter? Instead of flashing some and getting a little bit of interest from Colbert, he needs to flash even more and turn that little bit into a lot. The Steelers first preseason game is next Saturday, so be on the lookout for him as he needs to not only play well on defense, but special teams as well.
Baxter might not make the final 53 man roster this year, but neither did James Harrison right out of the chute. I\’m not suggesting he is the next Harrison, but having Colbert\’s eye this early on in camp certainly isn\’t a bad thing for an undrafted free agent.