Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth 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 season and into 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. 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: With the Steelers’ decision to not only retain Ahkello Witherspoon but also bring in Levi Wallace, it will not be any easier for third-year cornerback James Pierre to get back on the field after finishing the 2021 season on the bench.
Few players on the Steelers, perhaps, had a higher projected trajectory than James Pierre entering the 2021 season. A former undrafted free agent the year before, he looked to be poised to be a contributor, some even expecting him to compete for a starting job, perhaps playing on the outside in the nickel defense.
He wasn’t too far from that role at the beginning, and they did sometimes mix him in in that fashion, but the bulk of his playing time, including four starts, came as a result of injuries. The problem is, in the middle of a four-game absence by Joe Haden, the team finally decided to bench him after struggling, moving on with Witherspoon.
He did not play another snap on defense the entire year, though he continued to be active on special teams. Many assumed the Steelers benched him completely in part for his own sake, so as not to damage his confidence further and turn his sights to 2022.
Looking at the current depth chart, it’s hard to see him getting on the field any time soon, especially with Wallace and Witherspoon being exclusively outside cornerbacks such as himself, and they paid each of them $4 million per year. With Cameron Sutton in the middle, and Arthur Maulet and Tre Norwood as sub-package options, it’s not clear how he will get on the field defensively.
As always, the player has the power in his hands to force the issue. If he has another great offseason, even better than in the past two years, he may be rewarded with another chance to contribute in some form or fashion, but for the moment, they are insulated in such a way that they won’t realistically have to call upon him any time soon.