Earlier in May, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed former New York Jet DB Arthur Maulet to a one-year contract. Maulet signed with the New Orleans Saints an undrafted free agent back in 2017 and spent time with the Indianapolis Colts and Saints against in 2018 after being cut several times before catching on with the Jets in 2019. In his two seasons with New York, Maulet played all over the defensive backfield, lining up at outside corner, in the nickel/dime, at deep safety, split zone safety, and in the box as Alex Kozora highlighted Maulet’s versatility in a post shortly after the Steelers signed him. In two seasons with the Jets, the 27-year-old Maulet started 11 of 23 games played, recording 67 total stops, five TFLs, one sack, two INTs, and a fumble recovery for a TD.
Here are Maulet’s testing numbers and measurables from the NFL Combine back in 2017:
Arm Length: 31 1/4”
Hand Size: 9 5/8”
Bench: 18 reps
20yd Shuttle: 4.22
So, when looking at the traits and comparison to the size, Maulet comes off as a little slow for the defensive back position when it comes to long speed. This is fairly accurate in his play as well, as he can struggle at times to carry receivers vertically up the seam and along the sideline. However, when looking at some of the other traits of Maulet, we see an athlete with good size and strength in comparison to his height along with acceptable explosive numbers and change of direction ability. When you are evaluating defenders to play the nickel, you need a player that has a variety of skills and can wear multiple hats for a defense in pass coverage and when playing against the run. One thing that sticks out from Maulet’s tape is his feistiness and competitive nature, which are must-haves for the position. He is competing on every rep, having his motor run hot as he plays with physicality. We see that here on this rep in training camp back with the Saints as he lines up in press coverage, getting hands-on the receiver at the LOS, engaging him to prevent a free release and contest the pass as it comes in.
Maulet has no trouble playing hands-on and jamming receivers, preventing them to get off the line free and break into their route seamlessly. Here we see a good rep versus Willie Snead where he mirrors him from the snap down the field, playing the ball at the end of the play after being sticky in coverage.
Here’s another rep where Maulet aligns in the slot at the nickel, running with the receiver on the wheel route up the sideline into the end zone, staying in-phase with him through the rep, turning his head and locating the football, and attacking the high point and knocking the pass down for the incompletion.
Another key attribute for the nickel position is to change direction quickly and break on the football once it is thrown. Maulet has no trouble of doing this, as he is willing and able to throw his body out there and extend to challenge the catch point to force the incomplete pass like we see on this rep where he plays through the receiver’s hands to knock the pass down.
Another great example of attacking downhill on the football on this rep vs #41 Alvin Kamara out of the backfield where Maulet opens up on the out route by Kamara and accelerates on his break of the football and challenges the catch point through Kamara’s hands, forcing the incomplete pass while laying out with great effort on the play.
Mike Hilton was recognized as a great slot defender in Pittsburgh not only for his coverage skills, but more for the impact he provided near the LOS as a blitzer and run defender on the edge. Normally, you want your nickel cornerback to be physical against the run and not afraid to stick his face into the fan and be a plus in run support. Maulet has instances in his game tape where he displays that willingness in spades, literally throwing his body on the line to complete his assignment and take one for the team in run defense. We see a perfect example of that here against Washington where Maulet is the force man on the outside, drawing the assignment to take on the block by pulling guard Brandon Scherff at the left of your screen. His job is to take on the block head-on and force the runner back inside where the rest of the defense is rallying in pursuit to take him down. As you can see, Maulet executes the job taking on the lineman who outweighs him by over 120lb, forcing the runner back inside where the defense rallies and holds him to a minimal gain.
As a tackler, Maulet is physical in run defense and when working against the screen game, wasting no time fighting off blocks and getting in position to make a play. We see that here against the Raiders on this screen pass, fighting off the block on the outside by #16 Tyrell Williams and making the stop in the backfield for a loss on the play.
As reported by Pro Football Focus, Maulet aligned at slot cornerback for 267 snaps over the last two seasons with a majority of those snaps coming in 2020. While he is listed as a safety on the Steelers website and has shown versatility to play a backup role behind the likes of Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds, Maulet should be in consideration to play the nickel role left by Mike Hilton leaving via free agency. He has proven experience at the position in the league and thus wouldn’t require the likes of Tre Norwood or Shakur Brown to have to be thrown out there until ready. He may be a below-average athlete, but many slot corners lack ideal long speed (much like Hilton did), but make up for it with quickness, physicality and a competitive demeanor on every snap.
Maulet provides these traits and would thus allow Cam Sutton to stay on the boundary more and grow into that role as a full-time starting outside corner, not having the need to flip bodies inside and outside due to going from base to nickel to dime which hopefully would cut down on the amount of “communication issues” the Pittsburgh defense, more specifically its secondary, has struggled with seemingly the last decade. This is no means a ringing endorsement that Maulet is the savior or long-term answer to the nickel position, but rather a sensible option with the experience and skill set to man the spot effectively in 2021 and try to prove that he can stick with a team in that role and eliminate the “journeyman” persona he has had his first few seasons in the league.
What are your thoughts on the Arthur Maulet signing? Do you think that he is merely a depth piece that may not make it out of training camp, or do you see him as a possible answer on the inside at the nickel or dime positions? Please give your thoughts below in the comments and thanks again for reading!