Entering the Week 6 matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers down the likes of Minkah Fitzpatrick, Cameron Sutton, Levi Wallace and Ahkello Witherspoon in the secondary spelled certain doom for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Turns out, thanks to some great play from James Pierre and serviceable snaps from Josh Jackson and Quincy Wilson, the Steelers secondary was able to do just enough to help hold the Buccaneers’ loaded offensive weaponry at bay, resulting in a hard-fought 20-18 win.
Following the win, Tomlin praised the contributions of the young secondary, before then following up on that Tuesday during his weekly press conference with the media, stating that the trio’s individual and collect efforts are not only an asset to the players themselves, but to the Steelers as well moving forward.
“I think their individual and collective efforts is an asset to them and us moving forward,” Tomlin stated to reporters Tuesday, according to video via the Steelers official YouTube page. “We’ll make week-to-week decisions based on who we utilize based on the people that are available to us and the matchup component and what gives us the best chance to win. It’s great to have viable guys. It’s great for guys to prove that they’re viable. We’ll see where that leads us.”
Pierre, making his return to the starting line since early in the 2021 season, redeemed himself in a big way after seeing his role decline throughout last season and early into the 2022 season. On an island most of the game, Pierre played very well. In 39 coverage snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, Pierre was targeted seven times but allowed just three receptions for 23 yards, good for a 51.15 passer rating.
Pierre was also one of just six outside corners played at least 25 coverage snaps this week and allowed only one reception as the nearest defender, according to Next Gen Stats.
Despite that strong performance, Pierre earned just a 59.0 grade from Pro Football Focus Sunday, one week after earning a 75.6 grade from PFF against the Bufalo Bills in just 18 coverage snaps.
Make it make sense.
Regardless, the Steelers were tested in a major way from a depth perspective and all three guys in Pierre, Jackson and Wilson — who was signed to the practice squad Sept. 21 — showed that they can not only play in the NFL, but can handle increased roles in the case of injury and perform up to standard.
That has to be a good feeling for the Steelers to have viable guys in the secondary behind their veterans. They’ll have some decisions moving forward to make, especially with Jackson already on the 53-man roster, but overall the Steelers are seemingly in a good spot in the secondary with their depth and the available experience on the practice squad.