The Pittsburgh Steelers lost a lot of talent this offseason, whether it was through retirement, free agency, or the cost of remaining compliant with the salary cap. Among the departures were Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey, Matt Feiler, and Vance McDonald, with the outside linebacker, offensive line, and cornerback positions all being hit hard.
In some form or fashion, the Steelers addressed all of them in the 2021 NFL Draft. Along the offensive line, they selected interior lineman Kendrick Green in the third round and tackle Dan Moore Jr. in the fourth. The team took Quincy Roche in the sixth round to come off the edge. Tre Norwood, taken in the seventh round, is capable of playing in the slot.
Chances are that’s not really going to be enough help for one or two of those positions. For ESPN’s experts, they see the cornerback position as the team’s biggest hole remaining following the draft, with Robert Weintraub weighing in for an Insider article:
Pittsburgh has managed to cobble together an offensive line it feels will be nasty and better in the run game (where it has nowhere to go but up). That’s certainly arguable, but the front five looks positively glowing next to the state of the team’s corners. After the loss of Mike Hilton to the Bengals and the surprising release of Steven Nelson, the depth chart consists of the solid but aging (32) Joe Haden, versatile Cam Sutton and a whole lot of question marks.
Can either Justin Layne or James Pierre take a step up in quality to claim the third spot? Can vet Trevor Williams be resurrected to play a role? Will the vaunted Steelers pass rush make the weakness at corner bearable? We shall see in September.
I would like to give Weintraub the benefit of the doubt and assume that his contribution was written prior to the Steelers releasing Williams on May 7, this piece having been published nearly a week later. Nevertheless, Williams’ absence only strengthens his case for the cornerback position being the weakest on the roster.
It’s possible that the Steelers have enough to make it through this season. They will inevitably have to address the cornerback position sooner rather than later. Haden is not going to be playing for that much longer. We can’t count on Layne or Pierre becoming quality starters. Even Sutton still has much to prove as a full-time performer.
Nelson remains a free agent, but it would be an upset if he finds his way back to Pittsburgh. Jeremy Fowler reported last week that he has been in contact with nearly half of the NFL about opportunities, and really, there’s no need for him to rush to sign anywhere.