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fordfixer
09-03-2008, 02:50 PM
Patience pays off for Steelers' Baker
By BUDDY SHACKLETTE
Staff Writer
http://www.news-journalonline.com/NewsJ ... 090108.htm (http://www.news-journalonline.com/NewsJournalOnline/Sports/Headlines/sptBAKER01090108.htm)

New Smyrna Beach native Dallas Baker has encountered more than his share of obstacles over the last couple of years, but Friday his faith, patience and perseverance paid off.

Baker, the 17th pick of the seventh round in the 2007 NFL Draft, landed a spot on the Pittsburgh Steelers' 53-man roster.

The odds were against the former Florida Gator, who spent all of last season on the Steelers' practice roster, but Saturday it became official he had won the team's fifth receiver position.

"To tell you the truth, as a rookie you dream of playing football in the NFL, but when you get the opportunity you can't explain it. I was shocked," Baker said. "Some of the guys were laughing at me, like Tyrone Carter, a veteran safety on the team, was laughing at me because of the look on my face."

Returning starters Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Nate Washington were assured of making the squad and Limas Sweed was -- more or less -- assured a spot because he was the Steelers' second-round pick out of Texas in this year's draft.

Those facts left Baker battling former third-round pick Willie Reid for the team's fifth and final receiver spot.

But Reid wasn't drafted in 2006 out of Florida State to be solely a receiving threat. He and Deion Sanders are the only FSU players to amass more than 1,000 career yards on punt returns.

One thing that hampered Reid's progress was a sprained foot that ended his rookie season in Week 5 and he hasn't seemed to have the same burst of speed ever since.

"You don't let it bother you," Reid told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "You just go out and play football."

Reid led the Steelers in the preseason with nine catches, including five for 55 yards in the third game against Minnesota, but coaches think Baker offers more big-play possibilities because of his size (6-feet-3, 210 pounds) and jumping ability.

Baker was the Steelers' second-leading receiver in the preseason with eight catches in four preseason games and averaged 14.3 yards per catch. He also made a catch late in the game in traffic that set up the Steelers' game-winning field goal over Minnesota.

"This year my whole thing was just going in and being relaxed. Honestly I'm having fun, but I'm still not the player I want to be," Baker said. "I'm comfortable but not as relaxed as I was my final year at Florida. I want to be the guy that helps my team win ballgames."

After making just one catch for five yards last preseason, Baker led the Steelers in receiving in two of four preseason games this year. He finished the preseason with eight catches for 115 yards, but the big difference might have been the five inches of height he had on Reid.

"The whole thing was about going out and playing football," Baker said. "When I first got there I was all lost and you can't play at full speed when you don't know what's going on. This year I was able to play and be comfortable."

A year ago -- to the day -- he was released by the Steelers, but signed to the practice squad the next day.

As a practice squad player he did everything the rest of the team did except for dress for games on Sunday.

After a year of patience and hard work, it appears that his faith and perseverance have paid off.

"We were just so happy and excited this morning," said Lolita McGraw, Baker's mother. "I couldn't stop rejoicing and crying. He's not a quitter and he keeps going. I told him these are rejoicing tears."

mshifko
09-03-2008, 08:56 PM
baker seems like a good kid...i'm not sure how much he'll contribute, but i feel comfortable with him going out there in our 5 wide sets...

ikestops85
09-04-2008, 12:05 PM
baker seems like a good kid...i'm not sure how much he'll contribute, but i feel comfortable with him going out there in our 5 wide sets...

I feel comfortable with him in the 4 wide sets. Sweed scares me right now. It really drags a team down when you are wide open and drop the pass. Sweed will get better but for now I think Baker is Ben's big wideout.

SanAntonioSteelerFan
09-04-2008, 12:11 PM
A little off topic, sorry, but I was wondering if the practice squad doesn't suit up on Sundays, where are they at game time - at home, or maybe free tix for home games, or in the locker room? I'm guessing they don't travel.

It's sounds like being on the practice squad is a little bit of a surreal experience.

steelblood
09-04-2008, 03:25 PM
It'll be interesting to see if they activate Sweed or Baker for week one. Since Heath Miller plays in the 5 receiver sets, it is unnecessary to dress both (sweed and baker). Sweed is better on special teams, but his dropsies make it a tough call. Maybe the touchdown maker gets his shot this week.

Jigawatts
09-04-2008, 03:27 PM
baker seems like a good kid...i'm not sure how much he'll contribute, but i feel comfortable with him going out there in our 5 wide sets...

I feel comfortable with him in the 4 wide sets. Sweed scares me right now. It really drags a team down when you are wide open and drop the pass. Sweed will get better but for now I think Baker is Ben's big wideout.

:Agree I'm not too worried about Sweed shaking the rookie jitters and developing,
but right now I don't feel all that comfortable with him out there.