The Pittsburgh Steelers’ recent history of drafting and developing players at the cornerback position hasn’t been great to put it mildly.
The last cornerback that they drafted was Justin Layne out of Michigan State in 2019. The third-round back provided an intriguing blend of size and length but failed to develop into anything more than a special teams contributor. The team hit on Cameron Sutton in the third round back in 2017 as Sutton developed into quite the important piece in the secondary before signing with the Detroit Lions earlier this week.
Pittsburgh whiffed hard in the 2017 draft, electing to take Artie Burns in the first round. Neither Senquez Golson nor Doran Grant panned out from the 2015 draft while the other notable names drafted over the years were Cortez Allen and Keenan Lewis. Needless to say, Pittsburgh has taken its fair share of shots at CBs in the middle rounds of the draft along with the selections of Burns and Golson early but have had minimal positive results.
Still, just because the history isn’t great for Pittsburgh when it comes to drafting cornerbacks, that doesn’t mean the Steelers should avoid the position altogether. In fact, they are in prime position to turn their fortunes around this offseason.
The Steelers have created a great environment for a young CB to come in develop. DB Coach Grady Brown has made a real impact at the position, putting an emphasis on going to the tape and working on technique while stressing the importance of taking the football away.
The team just signed future Hall of Fame CB Patrick Peterson, who has been one of the best CBs in the last decade and leads by example on the football field. He mentioned in his introductory press conference that he loves the role of being a mentor to younger guys. Having a guy as proven as Minkah Fitzpatrick in the secondary along with Peterson surely is a benefit given how cerebral he is and his ability to play nearly any position in the secondary.
This cornerback class in the draft is deep with notable names such as Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon, Joey Porter Jr., and Cam Smith at the top. There are also prospects with athletic traits but could use some seasoning to become consistent NFL starters, including Kelee Ringo, Julius Brents, Darius Rush, Eli Ricks, and many more.
Simply put, the Steelers need to add another CB to a room filled of veteran players as the team looks for a homegrown solution to the position with Peterson being a short-term answer. Whoever that cornerback may be and wherever he is selected, he will be in an ideal situation to develop and learn from quality players and coaches. That hopefully ends the trend of Pittsburgh lacking success at drafting the position over the past decade.