It has been a long time since the Pittsburgh Steelers have selected a cornerback in the first round of the NFL Draft. We have to go back in time, the whole way to 1997, when they selected Chad Scott out of the University of Maryland with the 24th overall pick. He had a productive run with the team, highlighted by back-to-back seasons with 5 picks each in 2000 and 2001.
“There were so many memories,” he said. “It was a childhood dream to play here. I had a couple of two interception games, probably the one against the Titans at Three Rivers Stadium. I am part of a trivia question – the last interception at Three Rivers Stadium was by me. “
As we’ve seen the last few years, the team could’ve really used a corner to pick off 5 passes, as those seasons, along with Dewayne Washington’s 5 picks in 2000, were each the most by a corner since 1997 when Scott was drafted. To have 10 picks between two corners in one season is almost unheard of, as we’ve grown accustomed to interceptions clanging off Ike Taylor’s hands of stone.
Since then, the cornerback carousel has seemingly been spitting out one disaster after another, whether it be Ricardo Colclough or Curtis Brown. The situation is so dire presently that the team’s braintrust will likely double-dip at the position, perhaps taking two within the first five picks. It would be the first time since 2011 since they took two cornerbacks in the same draft. That draft yielded them Curtis Brown in the third and Cortez Allen in the fourth. Brown is gone and Allen’s 2014 season looked like a disaster, and all of this after handing him a lucrative new deal.
A recent team who double-dipped at the position, with tremendous results is the Seattle Seahawks. Coincidentally enough, both were taken in the exact same draft where the Steelers took Brown and Allen. Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively, helped form half of the dynamic secondary known leaguewide as the “Legion of Boom.”
Sherman, a multi-time All-Pro, can stake his claim (as he’ll likely tell you anyways) as the top corner in the league, bar none. To be exact, 19 other corners went before him in the draft, and as crazy as it sounds, four teams, counting Pittsburgh, drafted two corners before Sherman’s name came off the board. I’m pretty sure the team would gladly give Allen, Brown and perhaps their entire starting secondary for the services of Sherman, but that’s why drafting isn’t an exact science.
Maxwell is no slouch either, and he turned his stellar play into a 6-year/$50 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles a few weeks ago. It remains to be seen if his play was a byproduct of being surrounded by such talented players on that defense, but Chip Kelly and Philadelphia will find out soon enough if their large investment was worth it.
That same draft had some hits, like Baltimore’s Jimmy Smith, Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, and obviously members of the Legion of Boom, past and present. The jury is still out on Allen, although Mike Tomlin believes he can pick himself up and become a contributing member to his ball club.
“Players are going to have trying times over the course of their career, whether it’s competency or injury related,” Tomlin said. “Obviously 2014 was not a good season for him on multiple fronts from that standpoint, but I am excited to watch him bounce back from that.”
Even if he does bounce back, he will have some competition from a likely high draft pick or two. And here’s some food for thought, with the speculation the team may draft tight end Maxx Williams, or their visit yesterday with Clive Walford-the selection immediately following Allen’s in 2011 was none other than Julius Thomas.