One of the most important traits that a cornerback can have is good study habits. Knowing the tendencies of your opponents—both the wide receivers you’re covering and the quarterbacks throwing to them, and the play-callers on the other end—can be the difference between giving up a touchdown or recording an interception yourself.
At the very least, new Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Steven Nelson has done his homework on his new location, meaning both the team and the city. The Georgia native went to school in Oregon and then played ball for the first four years of his career in Kansas City, so Pittsburgh is a new environment for him.
“The whole town is big on football, and I think when you’re the Pittsburgh Steelers, it’s a big tradition”, he observed. Another thing that caught his eye—how could it not—was the city’s many rivers, which he hopes to get to know better, as he considers himself something of an angler.
Of the Monongahela River, he told Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “I see it every day. I’m going to go hit it up one day, but I’m just trying to get my feet on the ground first. I’ll post my amazing catch for the fans”.
The Steelers brought him in to catch more than fish, of course, and as he acknowledged recently, it was no doubt the four interceptions he recorded with the Chiefs last season that helped make him look attractive to a team whose defense had just eight all of last season. No player has intercepted more than three passes in a season for the team since 2010.
“I finally made a few picks today”, he said on the final day of OTAs last week, “but no picks. Hopefully soon”.
While Pittsburgh had an obvious interest in him, he also got a feel for the team prior to signing by speaking to others. “I talked to several guys”, he admitted. “They played for the organization over the years, and they told me great things about it, so I kind of felt like I already knew what it was about” before signing.
The Steelers’ signing of Nelson was the first time in their history that they reportedly agreed to a player contract with an outside free agent during the three-day ‘legal tampering’ window, and his three-year, $26.5 million contract was also the largest ever handed out during free agency, just shy of Joe Haden’s three-year, $27 million deal.
The defense will be counting on these two outside acquisitions to solidify an area that has been a problem for years. Haden led the defense with two interceptions last season, but even that is not enough. At a bare minimum they should be able to get five or six between them. That is what they’re being paid for.