There isn’t much else to do while we sit here and wait for news about whether or not there will even be training camp, so it seems as good a time as any to bring back this series, in which we look to introduce some of the new players that the Pittsburgh Steelers have added to the mix since the end of the 2019 season.
The team added some notable pieces in free agency, which was important, because they didn’t have much to work with in terms of draft capital due to previous trades. They also made liberal use of the XFL’s closure, signing about as many players from there as the rest of the league combined. Even while claiming that they didn’t have a lot of roster room, they still signed a good number of rookie college free agents as well, enough that they had to release three players just to make room for them.
Since the Steelers could announce their roster cuts any day now, and I could be writing about a player as a new face in an article that publishes after he is cut, I’m hoping to stem the tide and start publishing the new faces column earlier, swapping places with the training camp battles series.
Next up on the list is a big rookie cornerback out of Florida Atlantic. The Owls are an FBS team, and James Pierre was a three-year multi-sport there, starting 22 games out of 39 for the football team, having played both cornerback (primarily) and safety (during his final season). He declared for the 2020 NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining, though he is already 23 years old.
While there, he compiled 119 total tackles, including eight and a half for a loss, the majority of which came during the 2019 season when he was playing safety. All three of his career interceptions also came during his final collegiate season. He had 15 total career passes defensed, with nine coming in his sophomore season in 2018. He also had one forced fumble.
At the Combine, Pierre measured at 6’2” and 185 pounds, running as a cornerback. He posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.59 seconds with a vertical jump of 33.5 inches. He has small hands for his size, with average arm length.
In other words, while he is tall, he is not a great athlete. That, combined with the fact that he played at a lower level of competition, helps to piece together the puzzle of why he was not drafted. Still, he does come to a team that has the potential for an opening.
The Steelers return five cornerbacks from last season, all of whom are virtual locks to make the team, but they can squeeze in a sixth, and there are only two or three locks at safety. If he can somehow really impress during training camp, it’s within the realm of possibility that he can make the team.