Player: Brice McCain
Experience: 6 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2014 Salary Cap Hit: $635,000
2014 Season Breakdown: The seasons of both Brice McCain and Arthur Moats certainly have some similarities. Both were largely deemed afterthought, bargain bin free agent signings, cast offs from other teams for one-year qualifying contracts.
But both of them went on to start for more than half of the season for the Steelers’ defense, playing with competence at the bare minimum, while also making plays on other occasions. Moats, for example, forced two fumbles and recorded four sacks. McCain finished the season with three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown and a pair of them in the season finale that clinched the Steelers’ first division title in four seasons.
When Ike Taylor went down in the third game of the season with his injury, the Steelers chose to keep William Gay in the slot for the duration of that game, bringing in Antwon Blake to play the outside corner in sub-package situations for the time being. But for the following game, the Steelers chose to keep Gay outside, bringing in McCain to play the slot.
That role would only last for a few games, because it was in the seventh game against McCain’s former team, the Houston Texans, that Cortez Allen was demoted, with McCain taking over in the starting lineup on the outside in the base defense, and moving inside in the nickel.
McCain remained in that role—as the outside corner on the left side in the base defense, while shifting into the slot in sub-packages—for the rest of the season as the Steelers were forced to make do following the collapse of the two cornerbacks that they went into the season with as their starters.
While McCain was not a shutdown corner by any means, he, like Moats, provided a settling quality to a position that was threatening to collapse under the weight of injuries and poor performances from the players the organization put its faith in the lead the charge.
At 5’9”, he has his natural limitations, and he was burned a few times, but overall, he offered the Steelers a lot more, both in quantity and in quality, than many likely anticipated when his signing was announced without much fanfare in early April.
Free Agency Outlook: Given the current state of the Steelers’ cornerback position, it’s absolutely a no-brainer to re-sign McCain, and perhaps to make that a multi-year deal as well. He started 10 games, including the playoffs, on a defense that gradually improved over the course of the season. Taylor will be gone. Will Allen still be there, with a $3 million roster bonus due?
Like Moats, McCain feels like he’s found a home in Pittsburgh, and likely feels no compelling reason to begin looking elsewhere unless that somewhere else is offering an assured starting job, which is probably not too likely.