It’s far easier in 2022 to get your top three cornerbacks on the field than it was say, in 2002. With most offenses running 11 personnel, three-receiver sets as their base offense, defenses respond by getting their three cornerbacks on the field. Still, maximizing the room is one of Pittsburgh Steelers DB Coach Grady Brown’s goals, especially in determining who plays where.
“My job to try to get the best players on the field,” Brown told reporters via Steelers.com. “So if all three, hopefully all three of them are playing at a very high level and you create, if you want to label it, competition.. But my job is just to make sure all guys are playing at a high level and we’ll find a way to get everyone on the field.”
Brown is speaking in vaguer terms here and not committing to a specific “top three,” despite being asked about Cam Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon, and Levi Wallace. But those are the teams top three corners and should be the trio who dominates the snap count.
Witherspoon re-signed with the team after coming over from Seattle late last summer, signing a two-year, $8 million deal to return. Wallace signed with identical framework, leaving Buffalo after four seasons. Sutton returns in the final year of his contract he signed in 2021 (the remainder of his deal voids next offseason).
On paper, Witherspoon and Wallace are outside corners, meaning Sutton should get pushed into the slot. Brown referenced Sutton’s extensive work in the slot, only moving to outside corner last season. Perhaps the biggest question is who the two starting cornerbacks will be when the Steelers operate in their base 3-4 defense. Will it still be Witherspoon and Wallace? Or will Sutton also play outside and if so, who becomes odd man out?
Overall, they’re good problems to have compared to a year ago. Pittsburgh was hemorrhaging secondary talent, losing Mike Hilton to Cincinnati while cutting Steven Nelson. They played slot roulette in camp, unable to find a trusted option, and dealt with injuries during the season. There’s more depth, talent, and experience here, and if Witherspoon can show consistency to be a #1 cover corner, it will be an above-average group.