As the Pittsburgh Steelers head into the offseason, they have more than a few roster needs. From lacking a top corner to a fair share of struggles on both sides of the trenches, this showed throughout the 2022 season. In a Wednesday article delving into all 32 NFL teams’ offseason needs, Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus tabbed cornerback as the Steelers’ top position to address.
“Pittsburgh doesn’t have a bad cornerback group,” Monson said. “But they are missing someone who can go toe-to-toe with some of the elite playmakers the NFL has at receiver.”
Indeed, after the retirement of Joe Haden, the Steelers lacked a true number one corner. As good of a corner as Cameron Sutton has been to date, several people probably do not believe he’s the true number one corner the team needed in a division featuring the likes of Cincinnati Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase and Cleveland Browns’ Amari Cooper, let alone a conference featuring the likes of Buffalo Bills’ Stephon Diggs and Miami Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill. Not to mention, Sutton is a free agent this offseason.
“Cameron Sutton earned the best coverage grade of the group in 2022,” Monson continued. “Allowing 50.0% of targets into his coverage to be caught. Levi Wallace has a great underdog story but gave up 15.8 yards per catch and over 600 yards over the season. The Steelers can still impact quarterbacks with their pass rush, but they need a cornerback group capable of enhancing that threat with better coverage.”
While the Steelers’ defensive identity is indeed through the pass rush, a quality defensive backfield is something they will need in a conference full of dominant passing offenses. Moreover, they ranked 19th in the league in pass coverage this past season after ranking 10th in 2021.
The Steelers’ lack of a top corner arguably cost them a few games in 2022, namely their second matchup against the Bengals, when they lost to Joe Burrow’s high flying offense despite scoring their highest point total of the season on offense.
The team’s cornerback depth for 2023 currently consists of William Jackson III, Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace, and Arthur Maulet, among a few others. With Jackson III and Witherspoon potentially being cap casualties in a few weeks, there is little doubt that the team will add a new name to this list, whether it be in free agency or the draft.
That being said, the Steelers do have other glaring needs, which some would argue are bigger than the need at cornerback. The team’s defensive line could certainly use another anchor, and they are reportedly taking a hard look at defensive linemen during the week of the annual Senior Bowl.
With inside linebacker Devin Bush also set to hit free agency this offseason, the Steelers also have uncertainty at his position. Moreover, the offensive line can certainly use an upgrade this offseason as well.
The Steelers are arguably seeking to be a defensive team. Indeed, their 7-2 run in the latter half of the 2022 season was largely propelled by the defense holding opponents to 17 or less points in all but one game. If that is the case, ranking 19th in pass coverage is not ideal, and addressing the cornerback position may just be their top need.