With training camp just around the corner, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2021 season.
Unlike last season, which was carried out through a pandemic, things should return much to normal this year, which should help provide us with clearer insights into where people stand. The return of the preseason in particular is a crucial window into operations that we lacked a year ago.
Position: Dime Back
Up for Grabs: ‘Starting’ Job
In the Mix: Antoine Brooks Jr., James Pierre, Arthur Maulet, Tre Norwood, Shakur Brown, Justin Layne, Lamont Wade
The battle for the dime back role this year may well just end up being the first loser of the nickel back competition. As we enter training camp, the buzz from beat writers indicates that a pair of second-year players, drafted safety Antoine Brooks Jr. and college free agent cornerback James Pierre, are the frontrunners for the nickel role.
Consequently, then, it would make sense that whoever does not win the nickel job will be the dime back. That’s the most likely outcome, but there are still many different ways that things can break, and it could partially hinge on what the team feels like doing with Cameron Sutton, and if they want to leave him outside.
Arthur Maulet, signed as a veteran after the draft, is one possibility. While he can play both inside and outside cornerback, he is better suited for the inside. Justin Layne is now entering his third season, and would be an outside candidate, which would kick Sutton inside.
But Layne could not be the dime back if Pierre is the nickel back, because that would leave them with three outside-only corners. Pierre has admitted that he has not worked inside at all, and it’s doubtful Layne has, either. He played outside when he came in as a nickel or dime last year. and Joe Haden has already said he wants no part of the slot. Thing is, you can’t have three guys outside at the same time.
That opens the door for the rookies, Tre Norwood, Shakur Brown, and Lamont Wade, all of whom could play inside, though one figures, if Brooks doesn’t win the nickel role, he would be in front of the rookies to be in dime.
There are so many ways this thing can go, but the multiplicity of possibilities isn’t necessarily indicative of their quality. The reality is that the Steelers just have too many unknowns right now to zero in with much detail. We know that Pierre and Brooks drew the most buzz in the spring, but Maulet and Layne as veterans would be more active in training camp.