There may not be any one position group that the Pittsburgh Steelers have paid close attention to during the pre-draft process this offseason than at cornerback, and this is in spite of the fact that they already signed a starting cornerback in free agency in Steven Nelson, and have Joe Haden in the starting lineup as well.
Among the team’s pre-draft visitors have been some of the top cornerback prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft, namely Byron Murphy, DeAndre Baker, and Rock Ya-Sin, and they also sent the house for Greedy Williams’ Pro Day.
One of the reasons the Steelers have paid a lot of attention to the cornerback position is simply because that is pretty reflective, according to General Manager Kevin Colbert, of where the talent in the draft lies, and that is a belief that has carried from the beginning of the evaluation process to today.
During the team’s pre-draft press conference, Colbert was asked if there were any positions that saw the organization’s opinion change regarding their depth, either positively or negatively. “I wouldn’t say that there’s any that are deeper” than we thought they were when they started the draft evaluation process, he said.
“Sometimes we lose players once we get a pure physical on them. Sometimes we interview players and we’re like, we just don’t like that player, no matter who he is or what he is. And we try to quantify those different risks. But the group itself, it’s really pretty much as we thought”.
There were three positions that he specified as having evaluated as deep groups. “It’s deep, numbers-wise, in corners and wide receivers, and tackles”, Colbert said. “And that’s really been the trend over the last two or three years, has been that way based on what’s going on in college football”.
The Steelers will, most likely, make four selections over the course of the next two days. It seems highly probable that at least one of them will come from the cornerback position, and one of the names mentioned earlier in this article may well be called, either in the first or second round.
As Bob Labriola mentioned recently, the Steelers have undergone a shift in philosophy about how they evaluate—really, how they have to evaluate—the cornerback position. First they had to reconsider the qualities that they look for, and then they had to come to the realization that they had to look earlier in the draft for them.
The team has drafted at least one cornerback by the third round in three of the past four drafts, and that will almost surely continue to be the pattern over the course of the next two days, perhaps at early as tonight with the 20th-overall selection.