As you should already know by now, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin reportedly both had dinner with Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates III Monday night ahead of his pro day taking place. On Tuesday, Tomlin and Colbert both reportedly attended Bates’ pro day to watch the 6-1, 200-pound safety go through the paces. After the pro day was over, Bates, who declared for the 2018 NFL Draft in January as a redshirt sophomore, talked to the local media about how he thought he performed.
“Today was definitely a eye opener. Just off the DB drills, I was really tired,” Bates said, according to video posted by Les Johns of Demon Deacon Digest. “But, I think it went very well. I felt like I was very prepared for it and just doing what I’ve been doing for years and being confident about it and just believe in myself.”
Being as the news that Tomlin and Colbert were in town the last few days to see Bates circulated very quickly, the young safety prospect was asked to talk about how it felt to have the Steelers head coach present and talking to him the last few days.
“It’s a dream,” Bates said. “It’s pretty funny to sit down and have dinner with him last night and just being able to just talk to him just like a man, and just one-on-one, was really cool. And I think I have a lot of those coming up here soon. I’m just soaking it all in and you know, just like a sponge, and try to take in all the information to ask as many questions as I can and go from there.”
With Bates being such a young declaring underclassman this year, it’s taken some time for the buzz to finally catch up with him. After a strong showing at the recent NFL Scouting Combine that included him posting A SPARQ score of 116.2, there’s been a lot more buzz about Bates in addition to the notion that he could ultimately be drafted as early as somewhere late in the first-round. He was asked Tuesday about where people are currently telling him he’ll go in this year’s draft.
“My agent was really excited about things that he was hearing and I’ve been kind of pushing him off a little bit,” Bates said Tuesday. “I don’t want to know too much about that until after I’m done with the pro day and all of that stuff, just because I know what I have to focus on and I know what I have to do. And then the rest of it is just going to control yourself.”
Even though a knee injury forced Bates to miss two games late in Wake Forest’s 2017 season, he said Tuesday that he’s now fully recovered.
“A hundred percent, hundred percent,” Bates said of the current status of his knee.
Bates was then asked if he knew when it was that he knew he was back to his normal self again after that injury.
“I would say I was about 90 percent against Texas A&M,” Bates said. “I was close to being a hundred percent, but I think that being home for a week before I went to Florida and I just rehabbed it really well. And I felt well during the Texas A&M game but I was very hesitant just because I took off the brace and now I feel really good about it. I can do everything on it and don’t even think about it now.”
With the Steelers in need a young free safety, it’s so very easy to connect them to Bates and especially after Tomlin and Colbert both had dinner with him Monday night and attended his pro day on Tuesday. At the combine, Bates also met formally with the Steelers brass so you can bet they have learned quite a bit about him over the course of the last few weeks.
This past season, Bates registered 79 total tackles, including six for losses. He had one interception, five pass breakups and a forced fumble in addition to returning 8 punts for 161 yards and a touchdown. The season prior, Bates registered 100 total tackles, including 3.5 for losses. He also had five interceptions and returned two of those for touchdowns.
At this point, Bates, along with Stanford safety Justin Reid, are both very strong candidates to be the Steelers first-round draft pick in April and especially if the team doesn’t address the free safety position during the next few weeks of free agency.
Will Bates be brought to Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit a few weeks from now? It’s currently unknown at this time if that will be the case but with that said, it would be a little shocking if he’s not.