The Pittsburgh Steelers are learning a lot about a number of young players this year, and doing so in a hurry. Eight of their nine draft picks made the team, and seven of them are contributing on a regular basis right now. But there are others, like second-year cornerback James Pierre, about whom there is still much to learn as well.
Pierre was a college free agent out of a small school. There was a limited offseason and no preseason, yet they kept him on the roster, and he earned a handful of defensive snaps due to injury late in the season. But he is playing a lot this season so far, even starting two games due to injury, and the process has been informative.
“He is a heck of a competitor”, senior defensive assistant Teryl Austin said on Wednesday. “He had some rough spots. Obviously, he had a couple of big balls on him in situational football that was a real learning experience for him and for us, not so much good. But I think what you saw is that he was a guy that battled back in that game and he was able to make an interception at the end”.
Austin is referencing the game last Sunday against the Denver Broncos. Pierre has been beaten a few times this year on deep passes, in no small part due to his tendency to peak back at the quarterback, as he still needs to learn to trust himself. He was burned for a long touchdown in that game, but he came back to record an interception on the final play.
Pierre also forced DK Metcalf to fumble on Sunday at the end of regulation, though they couldn’t recover, and you saw what happened. “He makes a nice play at the end of this game in terms of punching that ball out, we’re a few yards from ending that game early”, Austin noted.
“I like his trajectory. He’s still got a ways to go, but I think I’ve learned about him that he is a tough guy. He gets around the ball, and he’ll be competitive, and he’ll end up being a good player for us”.
It is somewhat interesting, at least to me, that he says Pierre will end up being a good player, meaning that he isn’t now. But he has already played 212 defensive snaps on the season, more than 50 percent of their total so far.
They’ve needed it, having had starters on the outside down a couple of times. They have Ahkello Witherspoon, a veteran starter on the outside, but they obviously don’t fully trust him right now, or just consider Pierre the better option.