It may or may not be official by the time this post runs since I’m writing this at four in the morning, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to sign Patrick Peterson, the eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback. He is scheduled to speak to the local media today.
He comes in just as Cameron Sutton, their starter for the past two seasons and a sixth-year Steeler, makes his exit for the Detroit Lions. But with Peterson now in tow, what does that mean for the 2023 NFL Draft? Would they still jump at a top cornerback if one is available, relative to other needs? Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio believes so—and that it might even be a benefit.
“The draft is the draft, and sometimes, whether it’s planned or not, when you address a position of need, it provides insurance that that player you may be eye-balling is there and you don’t get jumped,” he said during an appearance on 93.7 The Fan yesterday with Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller. “If the need is too obvious, there’s a chance you get jumped for the guy you may be looking for in whatever round it is you’re looking for it.”
One might argue that this is what happened the last time the Steelers were believed to be eager for a cornerback. The Cincinnati Bengals drafted William Jackson III ahead of them, and used their selection immediately following that pick on another cornerback, Artie Burns, who had a less successful career.
Yet it has worked out for the Steelers at other times. They landed Kenny Pickett last year, even if they did insure themselves with the signing of Mitch Trubisky in free agency (which Florio also pointed out). They needed a running back when they got Najee Harris, a center when they got Maurkice Pouncey, a guard when they got David DeCastro, an outside linebacker when they got T.J. Watt, and, well, an inside linebacker when they got Devin Bush. So it doesn’t always work out even when you get what you want.
This year, the top three names at cornerback in the draft are Devon Witherspoon, Christian Gonzalez, and Joey Porter Jr. The first two are widely expected to be off the board by the time Pittsburgh selects at No. 17, but Porter has a fair chance of being there. And somebody like Deonte Banks could be an option as well.
That being said, a lot of teams have been addressing the cornerback position this offseason, despite the perception that this is a deep draft there, so one wonders how that shapes the odds of one of the top three prospects being available at No. 17.
And it’s no slam dunk that the Steelers would take Witherspoon, Gonzalez, or Porter if any is on the board at No. 17. They could just as easily consider an offensive tackle or a defensive lineman.