Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season is over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we turn our attention to the offseason and everything that means. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.
Player: CB James Pierre
Stock Value: Even
Reasoning: The third-year veteran didn’t particularly move the needle one way or the other for himself in 2022. By and large, he maintained his status as a depth cornerback and a special teamer. But notably, the coaching staff also demonstrated that they were more than willing to put him on the field if the situation arose that called for it.
James Pierre was once a diamond in the rough. Fans held onto aspirations of him developing into the next J.C. Jackson. Instead, three years into his career, he’s simply a competent depth outside cornerback whose primary responsibility is on special teams.
Now, he still played 260 snaps on defense this past year, even if he logged over 400 in 2021. He did get the opportunity to start a couple of games due to injury. And he played more in the second half of the season as the team began to shift away from Arthur Maulet as their primary sub-package defender.
On those grounds perhaps you could argue that he merits a stock up, but I’m reluctant to go that far. I don’t believe he got the type of exposure that would have been truly illustrative of having taken a meaningful step forward.
After all, Pierre was given the opportunity to start a handful of games in 2021 and he struggled, giving up numerous big plays and not making enough of them on his own to compensate for that. Had he held up better, he may have held onto a starting job for the rest of the season.
Now a restricted free agent, I’m inclined to assume the Steelers will be willing to pay him the tender amount for a right of first refusal, which would be north of $2.5 million. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the cornerback room shakes out, though.
It’s widely anticipated that they will cut William Jackson III, a high-salaried trade acquisition who never played a snap. They could also consider releasing Ahkello Witherspoon after an awful 2022 season; if they do, I believe it says at least a little something about what they think of Pierre. Assuming of course that they do tender him.