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Ranking The Rooms: AFC North CBs

In the last edition of Ranking the Rooms: AFC North here at Steelers Depot, I took a look at the linebacker rooms within the division. Today, I’ll move into the secondary and take deep dive into the cornerback rooms throughout the AFC North.

In recent years, the AFC North has been a bit weak at cornerback, at least top to bottom within the division. Heading into the 2019 season that’s not the case as all four teams appear strong at corner, from starters to depth players.

Let’s kick things off with the AFC North CBs room ranking.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers

This really shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

The duo of Joe Haden and Steven Nelson was arguably the best cornerback combination in football last year.

Coming over from the Chiefs in free agency, Nelson was a revelation, completely shutting down opposing receivers, forcing quarterbacks to throw Haden’s way. Haden took advantage, picking off 5 passes on his way to a Pro Bowl nod.

In the slot, Mike Hilton was as good as ever, providing a physical presence to the secondary, helping shut down slot receivers while providing support against the run game.

Backup Cameron Sutton also had a strong year, helping seal a win in Los Angeles. Second-year pro Justin Layne continues to be an intriguing option outside and on special teams, where he really solidified himself as a gunner under Danny Smith in 2019.

Bubble guys Trajan Bandy, Breon Borders, Alexander Myers, James Pierre and Arrion Springs will battle it out for practice squad spots. Keep an eye on Bandy and Myers potentially pushing for a final roster spot on the 53-man.

  • Baltimore Ravens

Quietly, Marlon Humphrey worked himself into arguably the best slot corner in football, bar none. He was simply shutdown all season long, locking down one side of the field every snap.

Outside, the Ravens added Marcus Peters last season at the trade deadline and watched him single-handedly take over games. With two guys taking away receivers snap to snap, it makes a third, and possibly fourth, cornerback role a little less important. Fortunately for the Ravens though they have Tavon Young coming back from neck surgery. He will either slide outside or push Humphrey back outside, giving the Ravens a stout trio, much like Pittsburgh.

Guys like Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett and Iman Marshall provide some really good depth for the Ravens, at least on paper.

  • Cleveland Browns

If you’re looking for a dynamic, young cornerback duo in football to really build around, it would be foolish to look any further than Cleveland, where the Browns deploy Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams as their 1-2 combination.

Ward is one of the top young cornerbacks in all of football, while I have high expectations for Greedy Williams in year two. The problem with Cleveland’s cornerbacks’ room though is depth. Terrance Mitchell is a nice veteran who can provide some solid snaps in limited action, but behind that’s it a bit barren.

Guys like veteran Kevin Johnson and rookie AJ Green bring some intrigue, but there’s nothing that has me excited about the depth.

  • Cincinnati Bengals

Sure, Williams Jackson III is still on the roster and is pretty darn good, but that’s about it.

After cutting Dre Kirkpatrick in the off-season, the Bengals went out and spent a lot of money on Trae Waynes, taking him away from Minnesota. The problem is, Waynes has been pretty bad the last few years.

Mackenzie Alexander should become a really solid slot corner when on the field, but after that depth is a major, major concern. I do like Darius Phillips a lot, but it remains to be seen what he is as a defender, rather than a returner.

Greg Mabin, Tony Brown and LeShaun Sims bring some experience to the room, but the real issue aside from Jackson is the starting talent at corner in Cincinnati.

Last year’s rankings:

  • Baltimore Ravens
  • Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Cleveland Browns
  • Cincinnati Bengals

 

 

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