The Pittsburgh Steelers finished rookie minicamp this Sunday and with OTAs on the horizon, the position of slot CB is still leaving some uneasiness in the eyes of many who follow the team. Pittsburgh released Arthur Maulet, who factored in at the spot the last couple of seasons, and saw CB Cameron Sutton walk in free agency to the Detroit Lions, losing a versatile chess piece that saw a lot of snaps in the slot for Pittsburgh during his tenure with the team.
The team did go out to sign veteran DB Chandon Sullivan who played the most slot snaps in the league last season for the Minnesota Vikings. He’s started 31 career games, playing a notable role in Green Bay with the Packers. However, the analytics haven’t been kind to Sullivan with Pro Football Focus, giving him a 55.8 overall grade while allowing 72 receptions on 91 targets (79%), according to its charting. While I liked Sullivan’s tape more during his tenure in Green Bay, he shouldn’t be seen as the answer in the slot and more as an experienced player that can factor in there.
GM Omar Khan also mentioned CB Duke Dawson as a player that could factor into the slot this season despite minimal regular-season experience and spending time last season on Pittsburgh’s practice squad. Veteran CB Patrick Peterson mentioned that he’s been in conversations with the coaching staff about moving around more than staying just on the perimeter where he has primarily played during his NFL career. While this may be the case, Peterson will likely factor in on some packages rather than seeing a regular role in the slot.
While Pittsburgh looks to have a division of labor occurring in the slot like previous seasons, one name that isn’t getting a lot of consideration is S Minkah Fitzpatrick. Last season, Pittsburgh was able to deploy three-safety packages with Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, and Damontae Kazee on the field at the same time. Having Kazee on the field allowed Fitzpatrick to move around more and play closer to the LOS, covering defenders in the slot or coming on run blitzes. as you can see in the clips, below with Kazee covering the back end of the defense.
Kazee could very well factor into the slot as well, like Alex Kozora mentioned above in his tweet, having some experience playing there. We could very well see Kazee play as the free safety in a three-safety package with Fitzpatrick rotating down as the robber or line up over top a TE or slot receiver in the nickel with Keanu Neal taking over Edmunds’ spot as the dime linebacker/strong safety. The same could be the case with Kazee playing in the slot with Fitzpatrick playing free safety and Neal sticking at the strong safety role.
The Steelers could use a proven option like a Mike Hilton or Cameron Sutton in the slot, but they do have options if they decide to stand pat with what they’ve got. Sullivan should get some run there given his experience as well as Peterson, depending on if they feel they can kick him inside for some packages with Levi Wallace and Joey Porter Jr. outside. Still, Kazee and Fitzpatrick need more consideration as legit options at slot corner in 2023 if the team desires to get its best personnel out on the field.