It has been a trend in recent years for the past couple of years for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Art Rooney II to make some sort of declaration to the effect that they consider the secondary a primary area of the team to address—and truthfully, you can’t necessarily say that they haven’t addressed it.
In 2014, of course, the Steelers signed safety Mike Mitchell to a five-year, $25 million contract, and he has emerged as a leader on defense and one of the better players on that unit. Last year, even though they didn’t get much production out of them, they spent two draft picks in the first four rounds on cornerbacks, traded for another, and added yet another who was released during the preseason roster cuts.
But Rooney and others have made the same declaration yet again for this offseason, after the defense continued to rank well within the bottom third of the league in terms of passing yards allowed per game, even if by many metrics the passing defense did improve from the year before—particularly in terms of turnovers.
And based on Colbert’s comments yesterday, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the Steelers did once again address the secondary fairly heavily come draft time. Speaking to reporters prior to the Combine, the team’s general manager affirmed his belief that this class on first blush appears to be a deeper group at both cornerback and safety than in years past.
Colbert made similar comments over the past two drafts regarding the wide receiver position, and they came away with Martavis Bryant in the fourth round in 2014 and Sammie Coates in the third round this past year, as just an example of how such comments have in the past ended up correlating with actual real life implications.
“I think we all agree that we need to be better in general as a pass defense”, Colbert said yesterday, stating the obvious. But the good news appears to be to the general manager that the 2016 NFL Draft is shaping up to line up with those needs.
“The secondary looks to be a deep position, both at safety and at cornerback at this point”, he said, though hastening to add that there is still a lot to be determined about this class over the next couple of months. Still, he concluded that it looks like a defensive draft, and that “the secondary is deeper than it has been for sure”.
Though Colbert also said that the team is viewing 2015 second-round cornerback Senquez Golson, who spent his rookie year on injured reserve, as an extra draft pick—he has made similar comments about rookies who have missed their first seasons—it shouldn’t be surprising to once again see the Steelers address the secondary—either cornerback or safety, perhaps even both—relatively early in the draft, at least for as far out as we can see in the middle of February.