Now that training camp 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: Down
Reasoning: Since the start of OTAs, the Steelers have made it clear that their priority is to add a starter who can play in the slot, which leaves James Pierre on the ‘outside ‘ looking in, unless their options fail.
There probably aren’t many players on the 90-man roster that ardent Steelers fans are more excited about seeing over the course of the next several weeks than James Pierre, the second-year college free agent cornerback out of Florida Atlantic. The way things are trending, that might be the most we see him on defense this year, however.
After the Steelers lost slot cornerback Mike Hilton in free agency, and released outside cornerback Steven Nelson as a salary cap casualty, fans have been primed for movement. Many have figured that the most likely option, based on how last season ended, would be for Pierre to play on the outside in the nickel, and to slide Cameron Sutton inside.
Pittsburgh seems reluctant to settle upon this as their first-best option, whether that’s more to do with their belief that Sutton is their best option on the outside or hesitance about his ability to hold up against the run and to blitz from the inside.
He is, of course, their best option outside, in their belief, or else he wouldn’t be starting. But there is a case to be made that their best lineup in terms of talent would be Joe Haden and Pierre outside, and Sutton inside, where he has started several games in the past.
Before they get to that point, the coaches want to see if guys like Antoine Brooks Jr., Arthur Maulet, and rookie Tre Norwood can handle the job in the slot. If they can’t, then they’ll have to go with Pierre. And he would likely be the sixth defensive back in dime looks, either way, which would still require Sutton to slide inside.
But he can state his case by having a great preseason. If he can show the coaches that he is by far the best fifth DB on the roster, then I’m sure they’ll have to at least strongly consider making him the nickel defender this year, even if it means pushing Sutton inside.