Steinkuhler tries to keep the hits coming

2012-10-03T23:50:00Z 2015-04-03T21:17:25Z Steinkuhler tries to keep the hits comingBy BRIAN CHRISTOPHERSON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

The coach asked Baker Steinkuhler if he needed a break — just a play or two to catch his breath and remove himself from grappling against 300-pounders.

“He told me, 'I ain’t coming out … I’m not tired at all,' ” said Husker defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski.

Kaz offered the senior defensive tackle another chance.

“No, I’m not coming out."

It was no bother to the coach to hear Steinkuhler say that. In fact, as Kaczenski told the story three days after it happened, it was clear he rather liked the attitude.

“I know I feel a lot more comfortable when he’s out there, that’s for sure,” Kaczenski said.

Wisconsin ran 69 offensive plays in Nebraska’s 30-27 win this past Saturday night. Steinkuhler played all but five or six of those.

That’s why Kaczenski, a car guy, endearingly describes Steinkuhler as being sort of like an old, dependable Chevy pickup truck.

“Just tough. Always going. You beat the hell out of it and it just keeps coming back for more.”

Steinkuhler definitely beat the something out of Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave.

A crushing fourth-quarter hit by Steinkuhler on Stave seemed to play a factor in forcing the quarterback out of the game.

One play after that hit, Steinkuhler owned his man again, stuffing Montee Ball for no gain on the critical series after the Huskers had taken their first lead.

The defensive tackle position can be a difficult one for the average onlooker to judge. Success at the position does not always, or even often, carry over into statistics. Few at the position have come close to posting the ridiculous numbers Ndamukong Suh did his senior year at Nebraska.

But the 6-foot-6, 290-pound Steinkuhler made it impossible to not notice him on Saturday. He was credited with five tackles, including two for losses.

That was just a slice of his goodness, though.

As Kaczenski pointed out, Steinkuhler did “all the things that don’t show up in the statistics column on Sunday, and the things the telecasters and fans can’t see.”

The fourth-down stop by Nebraska, for example.

“He used up two on the back side and here comes (Alonzo) Whaley making a heckuva play, shooting that gap,” Kaczenski said. “He just did a lot of things, kept plugging, just kept beating up on their guy.”

It’s why some were wondering aloud if it was the best game of Steinkuhler’s Husker career so far.

You won’t hear Steinkuhler’s input on that here.

The Lincoln Southwest grad is not a big talker -- at least not with the media.

He rarely does interviews. Steinkuhler did his first one of the fall, and quite possibly his last one, in a hallway with a few reporters a week ago.

Some of his teammates laugh a little when reporters ask for details about what Steinkuhler is like, seeming to understand why the question comes.

“He’s like a lumberjack. He’s the toughest kid I know, hands down,” said sophomore defensive tackle Chase Rome. “He’s the same every day. And I literally have never heard him complain about anything. Nothing. Even when other people are like, ‘Ah, my legs are killing me,’ this and that. Baker just doesn’t.”

That’s not to say his voice is not heard.

It is.

“The good part about him is he won’t complain but he will call you out if you are bringing the team down,” Rome said. “… He isn’t going to let anybody get a big head, and he calls it like it is.”

Those words ring hollow if they come from someone who doesn't put in the work.

But you'll find coaches and teammates who say Steinkuhler works as hard as anyone.

"I don't know how vocal Baker is, but people respect him,” Husker coach Bo Pelini said. “They respect what he does, what he represents.”

Pelini agreed that Steinkuhler played “really well” against Wisconsin.

But now comes maybe even a stiffer challenge against Ohio State, led by dangerous quarterback Braxton Miller.

“We need him to play like he did the other night,” Pelini said of the big defensive tackle.

Yes, that Chevy pickup truck stands to put many more miles on it in the months to come.

The biggest games are still out there to be won, with the opportunity for Baker to add another chapter to the Steinkuhler legacy at Nebraska.

His dad, Dean, took home Outland and Lombardi honors as a Husker offensive lineman in 1983. His brother Ty started at defensive tackle next to Suh on the 2008 Nebraska team that got the program back to nine wins after a 5-7 season.

Doesn't hurt to have resources like those around.

“I think sometimes people that aren’t involved in (the game) don’t understand how difficult it is. What those guys are doing, it’s hard. And I think with his family background, nothing is a shock to him,” Kaczenski said. “And also there’s a formula. You know, his family has had great success. Follow that formula.”

Reach Brian Christopherson at bchristopherson@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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