Could the Pittsburgh Steelers really draft another defensive player in the first round? If Sporting News’ latest mock draft comes true, they will. Author Vinnie Iyer’s latest mock has the team selecting South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn at #24 overall.
In the explanation for his pick, Iyer writes:
“The Steelers have aging corners outside in Steven Nelson and Joe Haden and both sub-package players, Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton, are free agents. Horn, the son of former NFL wide receiver Joe Horn, is getting the due he deserves as a big-time corner. His big two-interception game against Auburn fueled an upset as he was the best player on the field. This Horn has good size, length, athleticism and physicality to contain wideouts.”
There’s certainly a case to be made cornerback is a position of need for the Steelers both in the short and long-term. As he writes, Hilton and Sutton are set to be free agents and it’s highly unlikely the team brings both back. Even keeping one isn’t guaranteed. But Horn, listed at 6’1, 205, probably isn’t a slot corner in the NFL.
However, Joe Haden and Steven Nelson are entering the final years of their contract. Nelson may be extended but there’s a high chance Haden is playing his final year with the team, perhaps his final year in the NFL. Iyer’s comments about Nelson aging (he just turned 28) and both being “sub-package” players is bizarre (edit: he was referring to Hilton/Sutton) but Pittsburgh is likely to draft a CB in April. The only question is when.
In Wesley Cantliffe’s report on Horn, he concluded:
“Jaycee Horn is an extremely intriguing cornerback prospect. While I do not expect him to be the first cornerback selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, I think he has the potential to have as much success throughout his NFL career as highly coveted players such as Patrick Surtain II and Caleb Farley. The Steelers will likely have greater positional needs than corner, but I think Jaycee Horn is a player that could be on the minds of Steelers’ brass if available at pick #24.”
So Horn is good value at #24. But the front office is likely to focus their first pick on offense, whether that’s upgrading along the offensive line or at running back. But if the board breaks right (or wrong) for the Steelers, it’s not out of the question the team could explore targeting a cornerback. But given their lack of success evaluating DBs, it’s probably best they don’t.