Ask five different people what the Pittsburgh Steelers’ biggest need is this offseason and you might give five different answers. After all, there are enough spots on the roster that could be reasonably upgraded with the resources they have this offseason. The offensive and defensive lines are popular answers, as is cornerback and inside linebacker. Some even posit that it’s wide receiver.
Yet it’s equally possible you ask five people and they all tell you it’s the cornerback position. Nevermind the fact that Cameron Sutton, their top ccornerback, is due to be an unrestricted free agent. Most feel they need to upgrade whether he re-signs or not. And draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah believes the team should run to the podium if any of the top three prospects are on the board, including Joey Porter Jr.
“I would love it for multiple reasons, but it would be fun if Porter were to get there”, he said during a conference call yesterday about the possibility of the Steelers drafting the younger Porter. “I don’t think he’ll fall that far. Christian Gonzalez would probably be gone, as well. I’d be shocked if Witherspoon from Illinois were there. If any of those guys somehow manage to get down there, it’d be easy to run the card up for the Steelers”.
The Steelers have only used a first-round pick on the cornerback position once in the past couple decades, doing so on Artie Burns, which didn’t quite work out all that well. They were reportedly intending to draft William Jackson III, who went one pick earlier. The irony is that they now have Jackson on the roster after acquiring him via trade and they are expected to release him without him ever having played a down for them.
Witherspoon, Gonzalez, and Porter are generally regarded as the top three cornerback prospects in this draft class, but it’s also regarded as being fairly heavy at the top overall. The Steelers may not land one of these top three names at 17 without trading up, but they should still have some credible options available even at 32 or with their natural second-round selection, like Deonte Banks or Garrett Williams or [insert your own favorites].
Were the season to begin today, the team’s top cornerbacks would consist of Levi Wallace, Ahkello Witherspoon or James Pierre, and Arthur Maulet in the slot. Re-signing Sutton would make that look a lot better, but having Sutton and a potential top-flight prospect like Porter would sure take things to another level.
Consider the fact that both Sutton and Wallace had career years in 2022. We can’t assume that that’s their ceiling, but what are the odds that they continue to better their previous years, when even by general consensus that performance wasn’t quite as good as this team needs it to be?