Remember the glory days of the Legion of Boom in Seattle? The Seahawks’ secondary was one of the most feared units in the league for the better part of a decade, having the likes of SS Kam Chancellor and FS Earl Thomas patrolling the back end and making plays either in the form of bone-crushing hits or impressive interceptions. However, one thing that consistently stuck out with the Seahawks secondary during this era was the priority Seattle put on size and length at the CB position. Former All-Pro Richard Sherman stood nearly 6’3 while his long-time counterpart Brandon Browner measured in at nearly 6’4, giving Seattle two monstrous corners on the outside.
During Seattle’s heyday, the Seahawks also had Byron Maxwell, who stood 6’1, Jeremy Lane, who stood 6’0, and Tharold Simon, who stood 6’3. Even today, Seattle has an affinity for long corners, hitting a home run on Tariq Woolen, who stands 6’4 with impressive track speed and leaping ability, in the draft last year.
If you have been keeping up with the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason, you see the team placing a similar emphasis on height and length with the cornerbacks they now have on the roster. Here is a list of the current names in the room and their respective heights:
Cory Trice – 6’3
Ahkello Witherspoon – 6’2
Joey Porter Jr. – 6’2
James Pierre – 6’2
Chris Wilcox – 6’2
Patrick Peterson – 6’1
Madre Harper – 6’1
Levi Wallace – 6’0
Chandon Sullivan – 5’11
Arthur Maulet – 5’10
Duke Dawson – 5’10
Of the 11 CBs on the roster, only three are listed under 6’0. DB Coach Grady Brown mentioned in a post-draft pick press conference that length and height are important qualities the team looks for in cornerbacks, making Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice Jr. attractive to them during the pre-draft process. Brown referenced the need to have big, physical corners to match up with the receivers Pittsburgh sees regularly in the AFC North as well as the need to have bigger defensive backs that can aid in run support and make open-field tackles on RBs like Joe Mixon and Nick Chubb.
As Alex Kozora mentioned in a piece highlighting the fact that Pittsburgh appears ready to play bully ball in 2023, Porter and Trice’s length can be a benefit to jam opposing receivers at the LOS and disrupt the timing between WRs and the QB, which can help extend plays and give the pass rush time to get home. Not only that, their size and length can allow these longer CBs to cover more ground thanks to longer strides as well as minimize passing lanes due to their larger frames and long arms.
Simply put, the Pittsburgh Steelers are assembling a basketball team on the perimeter in 2023, investing in free agency as well as the draft in tall, long cornerbacks who can make life difficult for bigger, stronger pass catchers like Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and even Mark Andrews in their own division. With opposing teams loading up on offensive talent, you need to have the guys to match up with them and make them earn every reception. That’s what it appears Pittsburgh is looking to do in 2023 and beyond, putting less of an emphasis on the short, quick cover man and instead prioritizing the big, long corner that can better defend the receivers that the Steelers will see consistently on their schedule.