Mark Barron was fully expecting questions from reporters about the inner workings of the Los Angeles Rams, so the Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker expects his teammates to do the same.
“Whatever information I have, if they come up and ask me, I’m going to give it to ‘em,” Barron said of his former team. “I’m on this team now, so … I have some knowledge of what they do and some personality things, so if they have some questions, I will answer them.”
Just don’t oversell it.
Barron is just as forthcoming with this warning: Playing five seasons for the Rams might give him greater insight into the Steelers’ next opponent, but most of what he provides is tips on tendencies and a confirmation of what they see on game film.
“I feel like some people do make too much of it because I could tell them something, but they also have the ones watch the film. A lot of what I’d be saying is on film,” Barron said. “I feel like we have smart guys on our offense that are going to study and, on top of that, we have a coaching staff that will go up there and analyze that tape and see a lot of what I might be telling them anyway.
“You can try to make what you want to make of having somebody who’s been in that scheme — and it helps. Don’t get me wrong, it helps. But at the same time, you’ll see the same stuff on tape.”
If Minkah Fitzpatrick’s performance against the Miami Dolphins is any indication, the addition of Barron could be beneficial in multiple ways for the Steelers when they play the Rams on Sunday at Heinz Field.
Fitzpatrick had two interceptions and two pass breakups against his former team, although he doesn’t attribute his knowledge of them as the reason. The Dolphins had added and subtracted from their playbook since his trade to the Steelers in September, Fitzpatrick said, but he knew the habits of their personnel.
That Fitzpatrick shared his insights with his teammates was particularly helpful. Fitzpatrick warned Steelers rookie inside linebacker Devin Bush that tight end Mike Gesicki liked to run routes downfield and is strong at high-pointing the ball on his catches, so Bush had a better understanding of what to expect.
The Steelers know Barron can do the same for them with Rams quarterback Jared Goff and receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, given he practiced against them every day.
“It’s just confirmation,” Bush said. “Film don’t lie, but if I need extra tips and things, a guy like Mark who’s been on that team and knows those guys can help me out.
“People think of it as if we’ve got the cheat code. Nah, you get the personality of different guys and what they like to do, the playing style they have and a coach’s mindset.”
Studying tape of Barron before the Steelers signed him in mid-March, just 11 days after he was cut by the Rams after their Super Bowl season, is where Mike Tomlin noticed linebacker Corey Littleton. The Steelers coach saw Littleton making plays all over the field, and he leads the Rams with 66 tackles.
But Tomlin also noted the Rams spent more time in the nickel package last season because of Barron’s coverage skills and more in the dime this season without him, which makes the Rams a much different defense than the one Barron played in.
Rams coach Sean McVay was effusive in his praise for Barron — calling him a “stud” and “one of the toughest competitors I’ve been around” — and how seamlessly he has adapted to the Steelers’ scheme alongside Bush and Vince Williams.
“He’s a great, physical, tough football player,” McVay said. “I think he fits the mold of what a lot of those inside linebackers who have had a lot of success identify and personify in that Steelers defense. He and Bush have great speed, great lateral agilities and you can see there’s confidence, whether it’s blitzing them or whether it’s asking them to play in coverage.”
What worries McVay is how much Barron can help the Steelers, both in preparation for the Rams and in his play.
“I’m sure he can help in some ways,” McVay said. “I just hope it’s not too much.”