There’s no question Steven Nelson had a fantastic 2019 for the Pittsburgh Steelers, his first in black and gold. And he’s deservedly, finally, receiving some national love from the press.
Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar ranked the league’s best man coverage cornerbacks. Nelson ranked 6th best for his shutdown ability. Here’s what Farrar wrote:
“Pittsburgh’s coverage abilities improved exponentially as the 2019 season went along, and a prior glaring weakness became an obvious strength…Steven Nelson’s maturation as a coverage star helped, as well. This was especially true in man coverage, where he allowed only eight catches on 26 targets for 107 yards. Nelson didn’t have any interceptions in man coverage, but he didn’t allow any touchdowns, and no cornerback with at least 20 man coverage targets had a lower Positive Play Rate allowed than his 23.1%.”
Farrar’s commentary is spot on here and in-line with the numbers we posted in our defensive charting. According to our numbers, which included man and zone coverage, here is the QBs stat line when targeting Nelson: 23 completions, 44 attempts (52.3% completion rate) 323 yards, 0 TDs 1 INT. And an overall QB rating of 66.8. Excellent numbers across the board.
Nelson and Joe Haden have become an excellent duo, the first such in Pittsburgh in a long time. Haden didn’t make Farrar’s list but he enjoyed an excellent 2019, too. The Steelers have transformed their defense from a zone-focused, Cover 3 shell under Dick LeBeau and Keith Butler’s early days as DC to man-heavy scheme capable of contesting every throw. That’s helped transform this unit back into dominance and one of the league’s best last season.
The Patriots’ JC Jackson ranked #1 on Farrar’s list. Two other AFC North corners appeared; Cincinnati’s William Jackson III at #9, Baltimore’s Marcus Peters at #10. Funny enough, the first CB the Steelers tried to sign before inking Nelson, Bradley Roby, was ranked 8th.
Check out Owen Straley’s video breakdown of Nelson highlighting how good of a year he had.