2023 NFL Draft
Steelers Draft Profile: Pitt DE Habakkuk Baldonado Looks to Continue Defying the Odds
LAS VEGAS – When you come from a program like Pitt that’s produced so many quality pros over the years, it’s only natural to feel a sense of confidence that you’re as prepared as possible, and Habakkuk Baldonado is no different.
This is something Habakkuk Baldonado clearly believes as he continues the journey that he hopes takes him to the NFL. And Baldonado’s experience at the Shrine Bowl has provided a sense of confirmation of this belief too.
“I think Pitt is one of the best schools in terms of this. Coach Duzz (Pat Narduzzi) and Coach (Charlie) Partridge love to say that we act like we’re professionals. So, everything we do is just like the pros. So, the way we approach meetings, the way we study the game, meals, everything that goes in,” Baldonado detailed while being interviewed by Mike Asti live in Las Vegas at the East-West Shrine Bowl, a week’s worth of practice and a game that allows the best college players to soak up knowledge from each other, as well as NFL coaches and gauge their game in comparison of their peers and where it needs to be to achieve success in the NFL.
It’s not just about how Pitt taught him how to be a pro in college but about being able to use the current Pitt alumni as resources. “People like Patrick Jones or Rashad Weaver. I talk to them all the time,” Baldonado said, then including Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and Pitt great Kenny Pickett in the mix of established NFL players he communicates with.
Even though Baldonado feels as prepared as possible, no player will be able to know what the NFL is like until he gets there. But Baldonado may have a leg up on dealing with a culture shock situation. After being born and raised in Rome, Italy, Baldonado moved to the United States in 2017 to attend high school in Florida and send himself on a path that will likely land him in the NFL. Not only was Baldonado tasked with incorporating his athletic abilities into the game of football in his only high school season at Clearwater Academy International in Clearwater, Florida, but he was also having to transition to life in America.
Baldonado acclimated to the American culture, which included learning a new language, one he speaks fluently now, and also showed skills on the field that led to receiving the attention of a major program, especially one with a long history of churning out NFL talent in Pitt.
Fast forward to 2023, and he has his stellar college career behind him and the promising possibility of more football ahead. So, as he continues his improbable journey, Baldonado has already proved he can accomplish anything he sets his mind to no matter what kind of odds are against him. Now imagine what will happen when he goes after a goal while fully prepared.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Measured at the Shrine Bowl: 6-foot-3 6/8, 257 pounds, arms 33 1/8 inches, wingspan 80 1/2 inches, hands 10 1/4 inches
HABAKKUK BALDONADO SCOUTING REPORT
Nick Farabaugh: Habakkuk Baldonado stands out as a player with burst and length that can win around the edge with active hands. Not just that, but he has an impressive bend that he showcased throughout Shrine Bowl week that should see him jump up some boards. Working in both a standup and hands-down role, Baldonado carries himself with poise and has proven to be productive in his career. However, he lacks a true go-to move, and his counters are still coming together. For any team that drafts Baldonado, he has plenty of work to do.
Mike Asti: The Pitt Edge was able to show his ability to break a bock and get to the quarterback during 7 on 7 plays at Shrine Bowl practices. He was seen being pulled aside and being treated as a leader of his unit and asked to communicate the plays to the rest of the defense at times. Coaches from the Falcons spent a significant amount of time with Balonado. Baldonado says he’s talked with just about every team with a presence at the Shrine Bowl, including the Steelers, but no one has stood out to as far as showing more interest than the others. He expects that could change once he gets to the combine.
HOW DOES HE FIT?
The Steelers have a need at outside linebacker, but Baldonado projects more as a 4-3 base defensive end than a stand-up outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He could fit into their sub-packages, however. While he has experience working as a standup rusher, the 3-4 reps would be limited, but since the Steelers play so much 4-3 even fronts anyways nowadays in their sub-packages, Baldonado has a place if they want him to have one. However, the Steelers should be looking to add a more traditional, productive pass rusher that is a veteran more than a younger guy with upside at this position in the case that T.J. Watt or Alex Highsmith gets hurt.
WHERE WILL HE GO?
Habakkuk Baldonado started as a player who got some preseason hype, but his stock significantly dropped after he suffered an injury in the 2022 season and returned late in the year. Since then, he has steadily climbed up boards and is now projected to be a fifth-round pick around 152nd overall according to Mock Draft Database.