Of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ six cornerbacks on the roster, one of them is still shaking off the rust after missing the previous eight games due to a broken forearm, and another two are battling injuries, though both seem to have a decent to good chance of being healthy enough to play in Cincinnati on Sunday.
Ike Taylor, the Steelers’ top cornerback for the better part of the past decade, had himself a fairly decent season, and was one of the few defenders who did not struggle in the first game against the Ravens, until Lawrence Timmons collided with his arm on a tackle attempt in the third game of the year.
He only returned to play on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, and was responsible for two of the five touchdown passes thrown by Drew Brees, including a 69-yarder on a double move and a missed tackle that led to another.
With Taylor out half the season, it was supposed to be time for fourth-year cornerback Cortez Allen, freshly off a new contract, to take the reins and become the player of the future at the position.
To be fair, he did record an interception in each of the first two games following Taylor’s injury, but there’s little question that he was struggling overall. After getting beaten deep in the next game, he was demoted, and then benched two games later after further struggles, and has not seen the field on defense in the last four games.
Prior to the Tennessee game, Allen suffered a thumb injury in practice, but he nevertheless played with a bandaged hand against the Titans on special teams duty. Following a bye week, however, he was inactive against the Saints. His status will be determined by how well he is able to use his hand in practice.
That may be somewhat important if Brice McCain’s hamstring injury, which he suffered fairly early in the game covering a punt, proves to be a bit more than is currently believed. Should he be unable to suit up—which I stress far from a foregone conclusion at this point—that could leave Antwon Blake as the third cornerback.
This was of course the case during in-game circumstances, and in such circumstances, that forced William Gay inside to the slot, because neither Taylor nor Blake customarily play the slot. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing to have Gay in the slot, but you would like that to happen by choice, and not circumstance.
The secondary has not been very good this season, there’s no getting around that. Whether it be due to injury or demotion, however, it’s also true that the Steelers have been unable to find any type of consistency with their cornerbacks from even a personnel perspective, whether it is among the starting lineup or in sub-packages. That’s not likely to come this week, but they’ll still have to find some way to cover A.J. Green.