Here’s a guy whom we haven’t talked about a ton yet, and that’s pretty significant given that he was one of the most costly outside free agent additions in the history of the franchise. Fifth-year cornerback Steven Nelson agreed to terms with the Pittsburgh Steelers before the start of free agency, the first time Pittsburgh ever managed to do that during the ‘legal tampering’ period, but they knew they needed a quality veteran cornerback.
Pairing with Joe Haden, Nelson has been on an upward trajectory throughout training camp. He started off a little slow and got beaten in some situations that you wouldn’t want to see. Chances are, he is going to lose a couple of battles during the year you’re not going to want him to.
But he’s also going to make some impact plays, or at least so it appears, showing the ability to be around the ball, even recording a turnover or two, or at least helping to contribute to them with a tip. Teryl Austin is really hammering home the need for his guys to not just break up the passes this year, but to pick them off. And it does increasingly seem as though he is taking charge of the secondary, admittedly.
Austin lavished praise on Nelson a week ago, early on in training camp, saying that he has fit well into the room and that he’s not an “up and down guy”, so you know what you’re going to get from him in terms of the work he puts in every day.
Tonight, though, is for many our first look at him. He is a player who is supposed to have a tremendous impact on this season. He is supposed to help stabilize the secondary. He is supposed to be the guy who makes the stops and prevents the key conversions late in games. He is supposed to be one of the players who gives the offense a few extra drives over the course of the season by taking the ball away.
Given the potential significance of his role, not just within the defense, but on the team as a whole, it’s somewhat surprising that he hasn’t drawn more attention, but perhaps that’s because he has such a businesslike approach to what he brings to the table. Granted, you want him to get attention for bringing in half a dozen interceptions, but he has made some plays in coverage in camp.
Austin particularly singled out Nelson’s work in press coverage, and that is what I want to get a good look at tonight. Unfortunately, the league still doesn’t offer All-22 tape for preseason games, so we can only discern so much from the broadcast, but it will be a valuable first look at one of the key pieces of this 2019 team that wasn’t here a season ago.