Steelers Should Be Wary Of Chasing Speed At Cornerback

It was reported a couple of days ago that among the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pre-draft visitors for the day was cornerback Jaylen Myrick, who just so happened to post the second-fastest 40-yard dash time at this year’s Combine—the year in which the fastest time ever was recorded. The record now stands at 4.22, and he posted a 4.28.

Apparently, that is enough to get the Steelers interested, because they have made it a habit in recent years of casing cornerbacks. I’m probably missing names, but in 2014 they coveted the top performer at the combine that year in Justin Gilbert, even going so far as to trade for him years later.

The following year, in 2015, the Steelers wanted Trae Waynes, who, liked Gilbert, posted the best 40-yard dash time among cornerback prospects in his class. Reportedly, they were entertaining considerations of trading up for either of them if it were feasible, but, of course, that never proved to be the case.

Nor have either of them really managed to live up to their draft status as of yet, although Waynes did make some strides last season, particularly in terms of making plays, even if he struggles in other areas. He made eight starts and intercepted three passes. Gilbert is a street free agent right now.

Myrick probably isn’t going to go in the first round the way that Gilbert and Waynes did, no matter how much his stock may rise between now and the draft, as often happens with highly athletic prospects. But there is a pattern here.

It was once the case that the Steelers were sticklers for technique and sound run defense with a healthy dose of want-to mixed into their perimeter defenders, but they have moved away from that in recent years. Both of their starting outside cornerbacks right now are a liability to some degree on the boundaries, and one of them they took in the first round.

My concern is whether or not they have fundamentally revisited what it is that they look for at the cornerback position, and if they are placing too much emphasis on speed alone. Myrick has many of the same shortcomings that others of his ilk have demonstrated, but this really isn’t about him specifically. It’s about the profile as a whole.

I just don’t want the Steelers to start going around chasing speed. They have already put heavy emphasis on building a quicker defense, and they have clearly also gravitated toward a certain type of wide receiver in recent years, with three or four of them on the roster pending reinstatement.

Not many players have it all, however, and what these sorts of players trade off is often in the fundamentals. Like it or not, that has been hindering the Steelers increasingly in recent years. Poor tackling, drops, biting on double moves, sloppy route-running. These are issues to be addressed, not added to. Myrick may prove more capable than others, but perhaps the priorities need to be refocused.

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