The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was weeks before the 2020 NFL Draft took place. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed since then, and the changes apply to almost every position on the roster, some major changes, some minor.
We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp, this time not at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, so it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.
Total Positional Figure: 10
Joe Haden: Haden played the best ball of his Steelers career last season, and not just because he had five interceptions. While he gave up some touchdowns, he looked rejuvenated playing with Steven Nelson and the rest of the secondary.
Steven Nelson: Can a player still be underrated if multiple outlets have pointed him out as being underrated? For the time being, I suppose so. Maybe after 2020, Nelson won’t be so underrated. Some more interceptions will help.
Mike Hilton: A good bounceback year for Hilton is what we got in 2019. He now enters his fourth season under a restricted tag, and the question looms: will this be his last season?
Cameron Sutton: More to the point, can they keep both Hilton and Sutton? And if not, is Sutton your next nickel defender after this year? He had a good third season last year when given the opportunity to play.
Justin Layne: A third-round pick last season who was drafted knowing that he will need time to develop, Layne is a physically gifted prospect without the immediate pressure to contribute defensively. It would be nice to see growth all the same.
Alexander Myres: A former undrafted free agent who got injured in the offseason and waived, the Steelers later brought him back to the practice squad mid-season once he was healthy, and was re-signed to a futures deal.
Arrion Springs: An undrafted free agent out of Oregon in 2018, Springs has yet to advance beyond a practice squad spot, having done so with a few different teams. He played in the XFL this winter, intercepting one pass, before signing with the Steelers in April.
Breon Borders: A former Duke cornerback, undrafted in 2017, Borders has bounced around on practice squads for three seasons, signed before the draft.
Trajan Bandy: An undersized cornerback out of Miami, Bandy has reminded some of Hilton thanks to his physicality and ability to play beyond his size. He was an undrafted free agent rookie.
James Pierre: Another college free agent, Pierre is 6’2” but slim, coming out of Florida Atlantic from Conference USA. He played both safety and cornerback, registering three interceptions last season at the latter position as a junior.
Players Lost: N/A
Notes and Camp Outlook:
The Steelers are fortunate to have a veteran group at the top of the depth chart, with all of their top four players having three or more years of experience, though Nelson is only going into his second season in Pittsburgh.
The question is more about the future, I think, particularly regarding Layne. And who might claim a sixth spot here, if there is one? Bandy is a popular pick, but undrafted rookies will have an uphill battle making clubs.
Practically, the biggest question is whether or not Sutton can earn a more established defensive role this season. He will be cemented as the top reserve at all three starting spots for the first time in his career. He should also play most any dime snap that they might use, which could be significant. Might they even use him over Hilton in the nickel on a situational basis?