It’s not often that fans get very excited about seventh-round draft picks, but the Pittsburgh Steelers have been getting positive attention for their decision to draft defensive back Cory Trice Jr. in the seventh round last month.
While the Steelers technically list Trice as a defensive back specifically, they have affirmed multiple times since selecting him that they view him specifically as a cornerback. There has been talk about his potential to play safety, but that is, if anything, a conversation for the future if Plan A doesn’t work out.
“He’s a corner. He’s a corner”, Steelers general manager Omar Khan insisted during an appearance on the Movin’ the Chains program with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller on SiriusXM Radio on Wednesday. “If you look at our outside corners and how they’re built and their size, you see a pattern there, and he’s a corner for us. We think he can do it”.
The Steelers signed Patrick Peterson in free agency in March. A future Hall of Famer, size has always been on his side, standing at 6’1” and north of 200 pounds. They drafted Joey Porter Jr. in the second round last month. The Penn State cornerback is 6’2” and will probably work his way up to 200 pounds once he hits a professional weight room.
Trice is right there. Listed at 6’3” and 206 pounds, he said after the draft that that is the weight he intends to play at going forward, but that he was actually heavier at the end of his career, playing closer to 220. He lost weight for the Combine, but said he feels best in the low 200s.
We can even go back further. While Levi Wallace is no runt, Ahkello Witherspoon is another cornerback with the size that they value at 6’2”. After years of having to deal with the likes of A.J. Green in the AFC North, and now with guys like Tee Higgins, it’s probably not a surprise that Pittsburgh has an affinity for larger, press-oriented cornerbacks.
Khan has been very forthright this offseason in discussing their evaluation process and what their actual moves reveal about their profile preferences. The Steelers have never been one of the more difficult teams to read in terms of what they look for, but this year’s plan has been particularly apparent.
As far as Trice and his availability in the seventh round is concerned, that was primarily due to medical concerns. We don’t know the full details of what those might be, but we do know that he’s had injuries, including a torn ACL in 2021. He played all of last season, however, even if he played much of it with a brace.
Most evaluators had him as no later than a mid-round prospect in terms of talent. No doubt many teams must have had him off their draft board entirely due to these medical concerns. The Steelers just couldn’t pass up a potential bargain, though. Not for a talent who fits what they’re looking for.