The Steelers offer a study of contrasts at cornerback. They’ve sent Jack Butler, Mel Blount and Rod Woodson to the Hall of Fame. They’ve had to other excellent corners in Dwayne Woodruff and Ike Taylor.
Yet, in the 21st century they’ve struggled to draft good cornerbacks.
And cornerbacks are very expensive to find on the free agent market. Worse yet, they’ve just lost a “home grown” cornerback Cam Sutton. So how does this impact their plans for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Steelers Depth Cart at Cornerback: The Starters
Omar Khan wasted little time in replacing Cam Sutton by signing Patrick Peterson, a veteran corner most recently out of Minnesota. Peterson is into his 30s, which is a danger sign for a cornerback, but he has continued to play at a high level.
Opposite Peterson, the Steelers top corner is Levi Wallace, a free agent they signed one year ago. Levi Wallace started 9 games for the Steelers and proved himself to be a bit of a ball hawk, pulling in 4 interceptions including key picks in the wins against the Saints and Browns.
Peterson at his age clearly isn’t a long term answer at corner back and Wallace while “good” and someone who can help the Steelers win doesn’t look like a long term starter
Steelers Cornerback Depth Chart: The Backups
Behind their starters, the Steelers have Ahkello Witherspoon, a player they traded for just before the 2021 season. Ahkello Witherspoon sat on the bench for the first part of 2021 and fans wondered why the Steelers wasted a pick on him.
They he saw action in the second part of the year and in just nine games he picked off 3 passes and deflected 13 others. Witherspoon started 2022 with a bang, picking off Joe Burrow in the season-opening upset of the Bengals, but got injured in the third game of the season, saw action and got burned against Philadelphia and did not play for the rest of the season.
The Steelers also have Arthur Maulet, a bargain basement free agent signing they made in 2020. Maulet is sort of like Mike Hilton lite. He’s not a superstar, but he’s shown the ability to make plays at critical moments while playing in the slot.
Finally, the Steelers have James Pierre, a restricted free agent who they decided to keep in Pittsburgh. Pierre looked like rising star in early 2021, found himself on the bench after suffering a couple of costly breakdowns but made a comeback in 2022, helping spark the Steelers midseason turn around with an interception to start the Colts game.
The Steelers 2023 Draft Needs @ Cornerback
As they’ve done at every area on the depth chat, except for outside linebacker, the Steelers have positioned themselves well for the draft.
They don’t need to draft someone who can win the starting job on opening day, but they sure could boost their short and long term fortunes if they do find one in the form of say, Joey Porter Jr.
Ditto the backups. Unlike outside linebacker, the Steelers don’t need to find a corner who can step in as an injury replacement, but picking one who can do just that would provide both long and short term benefits.
So in other words, the Steelers really need to come out of the draft having picked either a projected long term number 1 cornerback or someone who projects as a number 2 or number 3 corner, they’ have done OK.
Therefore the Steelers need at cornerback going into the 2023 NFL Draft should be considered as High.