As is widely known by now, the Pittsburgh Steelers recently played host to two free agent cornerbacks earlier this week. On Monday, they sat down with former Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson, who left without a contract. The following day, they hosted former Cowboys cornerback Sterling Moore, who also failed to come to terms before leaving Pittsburgh.
Both of them agreed to terms with new teams yesterday, with Robinson signing a one-year contract with San Diego that is worth up to $3 million and Moore joining the Buccaneers, also on a one-year deal worth a little over $1.5 million.
Could the Steelers have afforded those contracts? Certainly—particularly the latter. But it doesn’t seem as though they believe that they need much in terms of starting material cornerbacks, and are disinclined to spend much more than the minimum.
The Steelers are sold on William Gay, who has performed well over the past two seasons since returning to the team. He has started each of the past two seasons as the nickel back, but has had to log a significant amount of starting time on the outside due to injuries and demotions amongst his peers. Meanwhile, he has yet to miss a game in his career.
The team is also banking on the resurrection of Cortez Allen, who has drastically underperformed expectations since being placed in the starting lineup two seasons ago. We all know this narrative by now, and how the team swallowed a $3 million roster bonus recently in order to keep him on the roster, signaling that he remains a part of their plans.
The other two cornerbacks who remain on the roster are Antwon Blake and B.W. Webb, both of whom were claimed off waivers during the final roster cuts in each of the past two seasons.
In Blake’s case, he showed a jump from year one to year two in the Steelers’ system, and has made himself valuable to the team as a defensive player after logging significant snaps late in the year. He was tendered as a restricted free agent at a value comparable to the deal signed by Moore.
What the future holds for Webb remains to be seen, but the Steelers must like what they see in terms of his potential after keeping him on the 53-man roster throughout the season, and even giving him a few snaps in the dime defense.
If they anticipate that Webb can become a defensive contributor next season, then they seem to believe that they already potentially have four cornerbacks—which is what they had last season when they signed Brice McCain. Defensive backs coach Carnell Lake cited Blake and McCain during the draft last year as reasons for the team waiting on a cornerback.
But it’s no secret that the Steelers’ secondary wasn’t so great last year, and they haven’t improved it at all on paper. Perhaps throwing money at random free agents isn’t the answer, but there are still some cornerbacks on the market who could provide depth at the very least at the position, such as Zach Bowman, who could come cheap.