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 the Steelers not investing any high draft picks in the secondary, or major resources via free agency, that places incumbent players such as James Pierre in a better position to move up the depth chart than they otherwise would have been.
It always seems as though there has to be at least one underdog player for fans to rally behind. Someone who is more or less universally viewed positively as a player on the rise who deserves a promotion. If there is that one player right now, perhaps it is second-year cornerback James Pierre, who could actually start in 2021.
With the Steelers losing slot cornerback Mike Hilton in free agency and letting Steven Nelson go as a salary cap casualty, there still remains one starting cornerback job open, even when factoring in the in-house promotion of Cameron Sutton to the starting lineup.
Pierre and 2019 third-round pick Justin Layne figure to be the top candidates, though they did sign a veteran defensive back in Arthur Maulet after the draft. That is a minimum pickup, however. In the draft, they only used a seventh-round pick on Tre Norwood, while adding Shakur Brown and Mike Gilbert as college free agents, plus safety Lamont Wade, who is also capable of playing inside.
Understandably, though, Steelers and teams in general prefer to go with players who already know their system if they are a viable answer. That leaves Pierre and Layne. Pierre was on the field for their playoff game last year, while Layne was not.
The coaching staff has spoken positively about both of them as young up-and-comers in the secondary whom they expect to take a step forward this year. Really, it is possible that both of them have a role, or even share a role. After all, they do like to play dime. One of them will have to adjust to playing inside more, unless Joe Haden does it.