Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: CB James Pierre
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: With both Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton no longer with the team, 2020 college free agent signing James Pierre has a golden opportunity to make a major push up the depth chart, possibly even into a starting role.
If we go by who was playing at the end of last season, minus those who are of course no longer here, then it would be a fair conjecture to list Florida Atlantic product James Pierre as the Steelers’ number three cornerback behind Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton.
Pierre was given the opportunity to log defensive playing time at the end of last season, his rookie year, when Haden missed time due to Covid-19. He was playing snaps that could otherwise have, and previously had been, given to former third-round pick Justin Layne.
We don’t know all the details about why that decision was made, though there were reported that it was simply due to the fact that Pierre had been the one practicing in Haden’s place, with Layne playing behind Nelson.
Either way, the point is that they finished the season no worse than even, because if Pierre was really behind Layne, then the latter would have been on the field. And now that two of the top three cornerbacks are gone, he could potentially even start this year.
Haden is still here, and Sutton will have to move into the starting lineup, but beyond that, there isn’t much to offer. His competition in addition to Layne would be veteran Trevor Williams, who has a couple dozen starts in his career, but has also struggled to stay healthy.
Should Pierre actually win the job, he figures to be the team’s nickel defender, who would come onto the field and line up inside when the Steelers go to their nickel or dime defenses, which could slide Sutton from the outside into the slot. It’s not ideal, but it’s not uncommon, either. The Steelers most recently did this in 2016 during Artie Burns’ rookie season while William Gay was still starting on the outside.