Analyzing Steelers decision to pass on cornerback until Day 3

Bob Levey

More than 150 players were drafted before the Steelers scooped up Arizona's Shaquille Richardson in the fifth round. What gives? Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake suggests free agent additions may already have taken care of the issue.

Darqueze Dennard was there for the taking at 15. The Steelers said no.

They had Phillip Gaines on the board in the second round. Nope.

Pierre Desir was there in the third and then again in the fourth. Uh uh. Both times.

So what gives? Why tempt Terry Hawthornian fate and take another lanky corner in the fifth round? Wasn't it a position of need? BTSC's Dale Grdnic quoted Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake saying the team had addressed the cornerback position before the draft.

"We've been fortunate in that we've picked up some players as free agents -- Antwon Blake is one -- really fast and aggressive corner that I liked coming out last year,'' Lake said. "We were fortunate to grab him in free agency, and he's been productive for us last year. (And) Brice McCain, who I've had a chance to see on the field the past couple weeks.

Whether McCain - Pro Football Focus's worst cornerback in football last season - can contribute this season will be determined through the offseason program and training camp, but there is something to be said about leaning on veteran players adapting to the system quickly as opposed to a highly drafted rookie who is starting essentially from scratch.

2014 NFL Draft Grades

This exact scenario is why it's difficult to focus on drafting a position as opposed to a player. There is little doubt Ryan Shazier is a better athlete than Dennard. The fact Dennard didn't end up being taken until the 24th overall pick is at least somewhat of a reason to justify he, in fact, would have been the reach pick, not Shazier - whose agent was reportedly on the phone with the Cowboys when the Steelers took him. The Cowboys were on the clock immediately after the Steelers.

As much as we liked Phillip Gaines, we figured he would go somewhere between the second and third rounds - and he went to Kansas City with the 87th overall pick, 10 picks before the Steelers. (He also went ahead of Lindenwood's Pierre Desir... just sayin'.)

If any cornerback from this draft ends up being the comeback argument to any future Richard Sherman proclamation of singular greatness, fine. The Steelers haven't had an All-Pro level cornerback since Rod Woodson anyway.

Depth is needed, but maybe Lake is right; they already brought in the players they needed.

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