Long Physical Corners Needed To Defend Top Wide Receivers, Weidl Says

The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t just get bigger and more physical along the offensive and defensive lines. They also got bigger on the outside with two of the largest corners in this year’s draft with Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. and Purdue’s Cory Trice Jr.

That wasn’t an accident. GM Omar Khan referenced the desire for those body types already, and today Assistant GM Andy Weidl made it a point to mention during his press conference, explaining why it was such a point of emphasis.

“When you have big corners that are long, they have range, they can run, they can locate the ball, that’s advantageous,” he said via a team-provided transcript. “We’re aware of the players that we have in our division, the receivers that we have to defend against, and I think with Cory and with Joey, as we say, speed and length can shrink the field on an offense, and these guys have speed, and they have length.”

It was hard to find corners bigger and more physical in press-man than the pair Pittsburgh took. Look no further than their RAS figures. From a height standpoint, Porter and Trice had 9.86+ height while Trice’s weight came in at 9.59 (and that was after he dropped down from 215 to run faster at the Combine).

Length is also a critical factor here. Mock Draftable has Porter Jr.’s 34-inch arms in the 98th percentile. Trice is shorter but his 32 3/8 inches comes in at the 81st percentile.  Pittsburgh also replaced Cam Sutton with Patrick Peterson, who is out of his prime but a big corner with 32-inch arms (70th percentile) and great overall size.

The name of the game for modern NFL offenses is all about timing and rhythm. The ball comes out on time, on schedule, within 2.5 seconds. Sure, the Patrick Mahomeses and Josh Allens of the world can scramble and create, and that’s important but it makes up a fraction of their overall drop backs. Having cornerbacks who can jam, disrupt, and reroute throws off the timing and structure of the entire play. With a front four pass rush led by Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt, and Alex Highsmith, it’s going to create more chances for the rush to get home. That’s the definition of rush and coverage working together.

It’ll help defend against the Cincinnati Bengals’ top wideout Ja’Marr Chase along with Tee Higgins, a big-bodied wideout, while the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens added to their wide receiver room this offseason. It’s a similar approach to what teams like the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts have taken in recent years.

Of course, Porter and Trice aren’t expected to start the season as a tandem. Trice will be a backup who must make the team above all else. Porter could begin his career as a sub-package or rotational player behind Peterson and Levi Wallace, who came on stronger the latter half of the 2022 season.

But Pittsburgh likes them big. At all positions. That much became very clear in Khan and Weidl’s first year as general managers. And it’s something to expect from them going forward.

You can also listen to Weidl’s full presser at the link here.

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