Let’s breakdown the Steelers situation at cornerback and safety heading into free agency and the NFL draft:
There are a number of ways they can address these issues. First and foremost, they need to get ‘younger’ and definitely more durable and athletic. To accomplish this, they can either use their first round pick in the draft on a young safety or cornerback or free up some salary cap space by cutting some huge veteran player salaries that exist and delve into the free agent market, where there aren’t many options for these positions. This is up to Mr. Colbert. Colbert believes that safety and cornerback is not as deep in the draft as the Steelers would like it to be. The two most prized and accomplished players would be Jairus Byrd, S, of Buffalo or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, of Denver, who I heard recently is contemplating retirement.
Byrd is a long shot for the Steelers because of his high salary demands on the market. If by some miracle this would happen, they would be getting a quality FS for a long time as evidenced by his 22 interceptions in 5 seasons. Of note, the Steelers tied for last in the NFL with just 10 interceptions. Imagine him next to Polamalu, who is, however, in the final year of his deal. Polamalu would then be able to roam the field freely, which makes him so effective, instead of playing in the box as a fourth linebacker. Ryan Clark, 34, is a free agent and second-year safety, Shamarko Thomas, 5’9”, still has some learning to do and would benefit from Byrd’s presence.
Rodgers-Cromartie standing at 6’2” and with blazing speed (4.3) and a cornerback, he is coveted by so many NFL teams. He has taken 5 of his career 19 interceptions to the house. He finished in the top 5 of Pro Football’s Focus’ cornerback rankings for his 2013 campaign. Let’s face it, Ike Taylor’s best days are clearly behind him. His speed is fading and is coming off a terrible ’13. The Steelers clearly don’t have anything that resembles a shut-down corner. Will Allen, 32, is an unrestricted free agent and Cortez Allen, who needs to be re-signed, hopes to be an everyday CB, but has been injury-prone. William Gay is versatile and dependable and should return in ’14, but is best served in a reserve role.
Adding a player in the secondary who possess legitimate play-making ability would greatly benefit a Steelers defense which was awful at taking the ball away the last few seasons, but especially in ’13. Considering the lack of depth and strength the Steelers have at the CB position, it seems like a logical pick in the draft. I’m a fan of snagging a big, young, strong, fast, athletic, and great cover cornerback or a safety that has great cover skills in the first round of this year’s draft. Picking at 15 should give the Steelers the ability to draft one of these guys.
- Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
- Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
- Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida St (first round talent, but not at 15),
- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
- Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville (a little bit of a reach in the mid-first round).
My pick…..Darqueze Dennard. Why? Well, even though under-sized by scouts’ standards at 5’11 ¾” and 190 lbs, his height and weight is average for NFL cornerbacks, but he plays much bigger than that, has great length, and is extremely athletic. Don’t forget Revis is 5’11”, Haden 5’11”, Flowers 5’9”, and Tim Jennings 5’8”. The last time I checked, they are pretty good. He was Richard Sherman-like in college and projects as a shut-down corner. A true ball hawk, ability to play physical and aggressive, and great in press or man-to-man coverage, he is a great fit for Dick LeBeau’s defensive scheme in Pittsburgh come draft day.