The 2019 NFL Draft is right around the corner, and there’s no question the Steelers have a few needs. Speaking of corner–as in cornerback–Pittsburgh–and a plethora of experts and armchair experts–have targeted that position as one of need for the team. Washington’s Byron Murphy, LSU’s Greedy Williams and Georgia’s Deandre Baker have all been linked to the Steelers at pick No. 20.
Two questions, should they pull the trigger if one or even all three were available? And just how great of a need is it, anyway?
Steelers Cornerback Depth Chart Going into the 2019 NFL Draft: The Starters
- In 26 games with Pittsburgh, Haden has totaled three interceptions and 19 passes defensed.
On the other side will be the newly acquired Steven Nelson, a former Chiefs cornerback, who the Steelers signed as a free agent in March. In four seasons with Kansas City, Nelson started 28 games, posting four interceptions–all in 2018–and 35 passes defensed. At 26 years old and coming into his all-important second contract, Nelson is expected to be an upgrade over what the Steelers lined up opposite Haden the past two seasons.
Since slot is considered by many to be a starting role in the modern NFL, we should include Mike Hilton in that group. An undrafted free agent out of Mississippi in 2016, Hilton made the Steelers roster one year later and quickly established himself in the slot position. Over the past two seasons, Hilton, 25, has appeared in 31 games and has recorded three interceptions, 15 passes defensed and a very impressive four sacks.
Steelers Cornerback Depth Chart Going into the 2019 NFL Draft: The Backups
The confidence in Artie Burns, the Steelers first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, is believed to be at an all-time low. Artie Burns started 25 games over his first two seasons and looked like a young corner who could develop into something beyond even adequate, Burns took a big step back last year.
Repeatedly beaten early in the 2018 campaign, Artie Burns only started six games and was a virtual non-factor in the secondary down the stretch. As for Cameron Sutton, Pittsburgh’s third-round pick two springs ago, the optimism was high that he would make a huge first-to-second year leap in 2018.
- But while he showed flashes, it’s more accurate to say Cam Sutton’s sophomore season left a lot to be desired.
Rounding out the Steelers depth chart at cornerback are unknown and unproven names such as Marcelis Branch, Kameron Kelly, Herb Waters and Jack Tochno. Brian Allen, a fifth-round pick two seasons ago, is currently listed as a safety on the depth chart despite coming into the NFL as a cornerback.
Drafted in 2017 as a bit of a project, there was a bit of optimism that Brian Allen could be molded into a decent corner. Alas, after two seasons as mostly a special teams player, perhaps Pittsburgh considers him better suited for another position.
The Steelers 2019 Cornerback Draft Needs
Having just turned 30 and on the last year of a three-year deal he signed in 2017, a deal with a base salary of $10 million in 2018, Joe Haden’s time in Pittsburgh could be coming to an end.
Sure, the Steelers may be willing to bring the veteran back, but would they be willing to do so at the same price tag–or even in the same ballpark?
- And how much longer can Joe Haden continue to play at the level he’s at right now?
- Can Artie Burns revive his drowning career?
- Can Cam Sutton finally meet or even exceed the expectations he fed with his flashes in late ’17?
As if these questions don’t speak for themselves, remember that Coty Sensabaugh, a journeyman who ate up plenty of snaps in the secondary for Pittsburgh the past two years — and did so to great effect in many cases –remains currently unsigned.
Should the Steelers address the cornerback position with another premium pick? It says here that Pittsburgh needs immedate depth at cornerback and perhaps a future starter. Therefore the Steelers 2019 the draft need at cornerback should be considered High-Moderate.