Who Is The Steelers’ Slot Corner?

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a question mark I can’t answer. Who is their starting slot corner?

The rest of the secondary? I can sort of make out. Levi Wallace and Patrick Peterson the starting outside corners. Minkah Fitzpatrick at free safety. Strong safety remains a bit muddy but there’s Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee. But the slot? I couldn’t tell you.

Now sure, Arthur Maulet is probably that name if you made me choose right now. But he’s a niche player. He’s a linebacker who never hit his growth spurt, a run-down/situation player who shouldn’t be out there when offenses have to throw. According to our 2022 defensive charting, Maulet had a 116.1 QB rating against when targeted, second-worst among qualified Steelers and only trailing CB Ahkello Witherspoon. Point is, and it’s not really up for debate, Maulet can’t be the passing down answer.

Last season, the now-departed Cam Sutton handled much of that role. Again, leaning on our charting, the total slot corner reps (in sub-packages) looked like this:

Arthur Maulet: 472
Cam Sutton: 213
Josh Jackson: 2
Ahkello Witherspoon: 2
Miles Killebrew: 2
Terrell Edmunds: 2
Elijah Riley: 2
Tre Norwood: 1
Minkah Fitzpatrick: 1

Maulet and Sutton made up roughly 98% of the reps and the rest of the group don’t project well there entering 2023. On paper, Norwood looks like the best bet but he’ll have to just fight to make the team. It isn’t assured after a down sophomore year. Fitzpatrick is capable of playing inside but the team tried that to start 2021. He struggled and wasn’t the impact player he’s capable of being and Pittsburgh scratched the idea two weeks in.

How about the draft? Pittsburgh’s expected to select a corner and take one early. But if it’s an outside guy, say Penn State’s Joey Porter or Maryland’s Deonte Banks, it doesn’t solve the slot problem much better. Peterson and Wallace are outside guys and so are those rookies. Maybe Peterson could try to be moved around, the Steelers won’t keep him perfectly static this year, but it still feels far from ideal. Perhaps they target a true slot in the draft, like Louisville’s Kei’Trel Clark, or someone who can play both like South Carolina’s Cam Smith.

Right now, Damontae Kazee feels like the frontrunner but he hasn’t played a lot of actual cover slot-corner, zero snaps in his half-a-season with the Steelers last year, and is better as a versatile chess piece than locked to one spot. Still, he has the demeanor to play the run hard and that’s attractive, potentially giving him an inside track on pass downs.

It’s not an unsolvable problem. But Pittsburgh has had these issues in the past. 2021 was a great example of it. After losing Mike Hilton, the team lacked a coherent plan and rolled through a mess of players during that summer, getting so desperate they tried Antoine Brooks Jr. Eventually, they pushed Sutton inside to play on passing downs. He masked a lot of problems, the guy who could and did do everything the Steelers needed. He’s no longer an option. I’m not sure what else on this current roster is. And the team has a tricky line to walk when it comes to attacking it in the draft.

To Top
error: Alert: Content is protected !!