If you are one of the many Pittsburgh Steelers fans who are hoping the team finally drafts a cornerback in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, you’ll certainly like what Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had to say during his recent online chat.
Dulac, who last year correctly predicted the Steelers first offensive player selected would be a wide receiver, said recently in his chat that the team intends on drafting a cornerback in the first round this year. Additionally, he went a step beyond that to say that Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple would likely be the selection should he still be on the board come time for them to make their 25th overall pick. If he’s gone, Dulac thinks Houston cornerback William Jackson III would likely be an option for the Steelers should he indeed still be available.
“I have said since the combine that Eli Apple is their guy, but he has climbed higher on draft boards than anticipated,” Dulac wrote. “So, right now, Jackson is the safe bet.”
Dulac is also not buying a recent article by Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus in a recent ESPN Insider article that Apple is not a good fit for the Steelers.
In case you missed it, Palazzolo wrote:
“This one has as much to do with the scheme as it does the player. Apple may be the best corner in the class when playing tight press-man coverage, even if he gets a little too physical at times. His strength in man coverage is a perfect fit for a number of teams — the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals come to mind — but Pittsburgh’s zone-heavy system is not a good use of the former Ohio State star’s talents. His struggles come when asked to play in space, and with Pittsburgh playing the most zone coverage in the league (more than 78 percent of snaps), Apple’s weaknesses would be accentuated. Whether it’s his blown coverages or his 19 missed tackles on only 90 attempts the past two years, Apple would not do his best work in a zone scheme. Pittsburgh is a bad fit.”
Dulac responded to that article in his chat by saying, “He is not a bad fit, believe me.”
Should Dulac end up being right when it comes to the Steelers selecting Apple, not only will it mark the first time has drafted a cornerback in the first round since 1997, it will also be the first time the team as drafted a cornerback during the reign of general manager Kevin Colbert who wasn’t a senior. In other words, quite a few long-running trends would finally be broken.
While Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin both attended Apple’s pro day this year, the 6005, 199-pound cornerback wasn’t brought to Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit, as far as we can tell.
Apple, who started 27 games at Ohio State, recorded 86 total tackles, 4 interceptions and 22 pass breakups during his two years of college play. He would be the second Ohio State cornerback drafted in the last two years by the Steelers should they take him 25th overall as the team also selected Doran Grant in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
As many of you know by now, I’m not a big fan of Apple and especially when it comes to his tackling. With that said, there’s a good chance he’ll be gone come time for the Steelers to pick in the first round. As for Jackson, who the Steelers also spent time with at his pro day, like Apple, it doesn’t appear as though he was brought to Pittsburgh for a visit. Jackson, who I consider to be better than Apple and a good fit for the Steelers, also stands a good chance of hearing his name called during the first 24 picks of Thursday night’s first round.
Needless to say, we will find out soon if Dulac is ultimately right when it comes to the Steelers drafting a cornerback in the first round.