If a single credo could sum up the current state of the NFL it would be “You Shall Pass.”
Long gone are the days with running backs like Jim Brown, Gale Sayers or OJ Simpson identified teams while their quarterbacks toiled in obscurity. The process got underway beginning with the implementation of the Mel Blount rule, but shifted into high gear after Roger Goodell’s crusade to take hard hits out of the game.
- But to every action there is a reaction, and the increased emphasis on the pass has made the “Shut Down Corner” all the more a coveted commodity.
Steelers Digest editor Bob Labriola once described the “Shut Down Corner” as somewhere between Haley’s Comet and a unicorn, opining that a lot more people want to see one than have actually seen one.
- There might be some truth to Labriola’s observation, but that doesn’t mean corner isn’t an area of need for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Mel Blount was the prototypical “Shutdown Corner.” Rod Woodson was a shut down corner for the Steelers in the 1990’s. The Steelers of the ‘00’s might not have had a shut down corner, but they got close in Ike Taylor.
Taylor couldn’t and probably shouldn’t be considered a true shut down corner because he coouldn’t hold onto interceptions, (although he came up with a pick when it counted in Super Bowl XL), but Taylor could and did contain opposing teams number 1 receivers of 8 years as a starter.
That changed in 2013, when Taylor’s play slipped. Some sites even have gone so far to rate Taylor as the 56th worst corner in the league (or something like that.) In Steel Curtain Rising’s estimation, those evaluations of Taylor’s decline are exaggerated, with Taylor suffering from Vince William’s play in front of him and Ryan Clark’s declining play behind him.
- Nonetheless, Taylor only returns to Pittsburgh thanks to a pay cut, and his best days are fading rapidly.
Taylor’s loss in the battle with Father Time isn’t the only issue the Steelers face. William Gay exceeded expectations last year at corner, but he is a free agent after 2014. Cortez Allen fell short of expectations in 2014, and he too is a free agent in 2015.
After that, the cupboard gets very, very thin. The Steeler did sign Brice McCain to a veteran minimum contract, and perhaps he can benefit from the “Lake Effect” (coin termed by BTSC’s Ivan Cole to describe the impact of Carnell Lake’s tutelage.)
However, the “Lake Effect” couldn’t help Courtney Brown who is gone. The Steelers also have Isaiah Green, who occupied the 53rd roster spot and found himself cut or resigned on almost a weekly basis.
And for those taking notes at home, the Steelers also have Antwon Blake, a special teamer, and Devin Smith, a sometime practice squad player.
- Anyone comfortable with that depth cart?
Clearly, cornerback is a priority for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2014 NFL Draft, and their needs must be considered to be High, as they need both quality and quantity and they need it now.
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