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 reasoning. 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 Antoine Brooks Jr. being waived injured and the Steelers working Cameron Sutton in the slot, the past week and a half have given strong indications that the team’s Plan A for their nickel defense involves James Pierre on the field.
Even if James Pierre emerges as a starter in the secondary this year, which seems increasingly likely, I don’t know that it’s more impressive than the fact that the made the team last year and dressed for every game. A rookie college free agent out of Florida Atlantic, he seemed to be the dime-a-dozen type, but has proven to have staying power.
And the funny thing is, we’re not the ones who’ve seen it. He’s only played a couple dozen snaps in-stadium in meaningful games. We didn’t even see him in training camp or the preseason last year. It’s been the coaches and his teammates who have pumped him up.
But it seems likely that we’re going to see him a ton this year. He and second-year safety Antoine Brooks Jr. were the frontrunners to start the season as the primary nickel defender, but the Steelers waived Brooks with an injury recently.
Thus, the job almost defaults to Pierre, as an outside cornerback, which will prompt Cameron Sutton to kick inside in sub-packages. The only other alternatives on the roster are Arthur Maulet or Tre Norwood sliding into the slot role, but they know Pierre is their best answer right now.
Or at least, that’s what seems to be the case. Odds are he is going to get his opportunity to sink or swim, but he hasn’t given any indication that he won’t be physically or mentally ready for that challenge. He’s done everything asked of him, so far. Now it’s time for more responsibilities.