Now that the regular season 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 have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season 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. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: CB James Pierre
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: After being benched for the final two possessions last week, James Pierre did not play a single defensive snap this past Sunday despite the Steelers being down a starting cornerback, the first time all season in which he did not play.
Here are some notable defensive back snap counts for the Pittsburgh Steelers from Sunday’s game: Cameron Sutton (74); Ahkello Witherspoon (68); Arthur Maulet (26); Tre Norwood (13); Justin Layne (9); Miles Killebrew (2); James Pierre (0).
It was the first time throughout the 2021 season in which James Pierre, the second-year cornerback out of Florida Atlantic, failed to play even a single snap in a game. He only played fewer than 10 snaps once before Sunday’s game, and fewer than 20 snaps just three times.
In fact, with Joe Haden missing time—about to be out his fourth game in a row—he has started four games this season. The fact that he didn’t play at all on defense Sunday in spite of the fact that he dressed, and recorded a special teams tackle, tells you how he played, though.
Pierre won the backup cornerback job throughout the offseason. It wasn’t something that was handed to him. The coaching staff and his teammates were all high on him, and that’s why he was on the field and being given opportunities.
A lot of times, he did play well. He was a very sound tackler, for one thing, for most of the season, but he really struggled in that area, and every other area, in recent weeks. So they turned to Ahkello Witherspoon, the veteran they traded for just before the season started, for by far his biggest role as a Steeler.
And the problem for Pierre is that he showed up and played pretty well. In particular, he had a huge pass defensed down the field on third down against Mark Andrews late in the game. Maybe Pierre sees some playing time on defense tomorrow, but expect Witherspoon to continue to start.