Steelers Needs at Cornerback
Just 365 days ago anyone registering a pulse within Steelers Nation knew one thing:
- Super Bowl XLV had proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Steelers cornerbacks were the franchises Achilles heel
My, what a difference a year makes.
The Steelers of course did not attempt to move heaven and earth to secure a corner waiting until the third to grab Curtis Brown and the fourth to get Cortez Allen.
Despite the fact that these two gentleman played sparingly, the clamor to grab a corner at all costs has died down.
A big reason for that is what Ivan Cole of Behind the Steel Curtain has termed “The Lake Effect.” Carnell Lake joined the Steelers staff as secondary coach in 2011 and the improvement in the unit has been dramatic.
As positive as that the Lake Effect has been, any predraft assessment of the Steelers needs at corner must take into account the fact that its chief beneficiary, William Gay, is now in Pittsburgh West.
In the same vein, Keenan Lewis will be a restricted free agent next year. And while both Brown and Allen defined expectations and got onto the field in sub-packages, assuming that one or both men will develop into quality starters remains a leap.
And it should be said, Ike Taylor, coming off his best season as a pro (the Denver debacle notwithstanding) isn’t getting any younger.
All of which is to say that cornerback remains an area of need for the Steelers, and one which they could do well to continue to address in the draft, should a quality player present himself.
- Priority of Cornerback for the Steelers in the 2012 NFL Draft: Medium/High
Troy Polamalu, Ryan, Clark, Ryan Mundy, and Will Allen. What you see is what you get with the Steelers at safety, and it does make for some pretty pleasant window shopping.
Troy Polamalu is of course one of the amazing, few, non-quarterbacks in each generation who can change a game with his own play.
Ryan Clark doesn’t get his just due at safety. Consider that Polamalu played much of 2011 up near or at the line of scrimmage and the Steelers pass defense still improved, and then you begin to get an idea of what Clark is worth to the team.
Ryan Mundy, member of the much maligned 2008 Steelers draft class, has emerged from a practice squad player to competent back up NFL safety who reminds me of Lee Flowers in a lot of ways.
Allen joined the team during the 2010 free agent signing spree. Allen hasn’t played much, and is seen as a likely candidate to go should the team need to free up salary cap space.
But Allen’s job is safe for the now, if for no other reason than the Steelers have no one else to play at safety….
Which brings us to safety, the Steelers, and the draft. Few are talking about it as a position of need, but they should be. (God, you hate to agree with John Harris, but give the man credit, he’s right.)
Clark, while his play continues to be solid, is aging. And as Hines Ward showed last year, when they reach their mid-30’s players can lose it from one year to the next.
Steelers Nation breathed a collective sigh of relief last year when Polamalu passed the entire year without major injury. That’s good. But Polamalu has also passed the 30, and that fact coupled with his daredevil style of playing all but ensures that the contract he signed last year with the Steelers will be his last.
If Mundy is in fact on the Lee Flowers track that’s not a bad thing – but Lee Flowers was no Ryan Clark or Troy Polamalu. And regardless Mundy will be an unrestricted free agent in 2013.
Safety is a position which the Steelers must address in the draft and it wouldn’t hurt for them to do it early.
- Priority of Safety for the Steelers in the 2012 NFL Draft: High/Medium