Interview: ‘Perfectionist’ Cam Smith Could Be Ideal Cornerback For Steelers Early In 2023 Draft

With a draft class as deep at cornerback as the one in the 2023 NFL Draft, some guys are bound to be a little bit overlooked. South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith might be one of those guys. Smith, who has six career interceptions and 18 career pass deflections, Smith had a fantastic day of testing at the NFL Combine, running a 4.43 40-yard dash while having a 38-inch vertical and jumping 11’2” in the broad jump at 6’1 and 180 pounds. Speaking to reporters at the NFL Combine earlier this week, Smith detailed his work ethic, his favorite coverages and his matchup with Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt.

Smith said his preferred coverage is press man-to-man.

“I pretty much love being press man. I choose that over any coverage.”

Smith rose to the competition at South Carolina, as he was primarily tasked with covering Tennessee’s star receiver Jalin Hyatt. In a game South Carolina won 63-38, Smith was able to limit Hyatt to help South Carolina pick up the upset.

“We knew they would like to run a lot of option routes,” Smith said about his prep for the Tennessee game. “Just make sure they weren’t getting the big plays that they were used to getting.”

Hyatt said Smith was the toughest receiver he faced all year.

“I have a lot of respect for Cam Smith. I think Cam Smith probably be my number one for who I faced. A good dude, when we on the field we butt heads, but it’s nothing but respect for him. I really admire his game.”

Meanwhile, Smith said Hyatt was his only competition in 2022, and playing against him made Smith a better player.

“Jalin Hyatt, I say that’s the only real competition I had this year, for real. I feel like me and him, going back and forth the whole time, just guarding him, staying with him the whole game with me challenging him, trying to make sure he don’t get the same stats he’s been getting all year. So I feel like it made me a lot better.”

With six career interceptions, including four in the last two seasons, Smith’s demonstrated near-elite ball skills. In addition to his three interceptions during his junior season in 2021, Smith also contributed 11 pass deflections. He talked about how his ball skills will translate to the NFL.

“I feel like I’m gonna get my hands on some balls this year. Make sure that I stay disciplined, eye discipline, make sure I’m in the right place at the right time.”

Smith talked about one of his weaknesses, which is that he has a tendency to get too grabby. He said he’s working on trying to hit receivers with the palm of his hand and not closing his hand and grabbing.

He also talked about his comfort level with a pedal, which is something that isn’t as common among modern cornerbacks.

“I’m kind of a perfectionist at this stuff,” Smith said about his technique. “It’s my craft, it’s what I do, so just try to make sure I’m perfect in everything.”

He also talked about his drive to be the best corner.

“I gotta be the best at everything I do. I wanna be the best corner,” Smith said. “Off, man, press zone, anything. I just want to be the best.”

Smith said he likes watching fellow South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who’s had a successful NFL career with the Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts.

Smith said he isn’t really paying attention to what people are saying about him throughout the pre-draft process.

“People could say a lot of things that they want to. I really don’t care. At the end of the day, I’m going to ball out regardless.”

Smith met with the Steelers on Thursday, and he’s going to be an option for the team at either No. 17 or No. 32. Smith’s gotten some first-round buzz, but recently his stock has dropped a little bit and he was considered more of a second-round guy. But after his combine performance, where he posted an unofficial relative athletic score of 9.57 (out of 10), he could climb back in the first-round conversation.

Owen Straley gave him a mid-late first-round grade in his profile for Steelers Depot, and called Smith “as complete a cornerback prospect as you will see” and compared him to Gilmore as a prospect. If Pittsburgh targets a corner with one of their first two picks, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Smith be that guy given his college production, measurables and combine performance.

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