Alterraun Verner spoke highly of Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake after their time at UCLA

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The pending free agent cornerback had nothing but positive things to say about Steelers DBs coach Carnell Lake, even after Lake left the Bruins in 2010.

Why would the hottest name on the free agency market be attached to the team that traditionally avoids those hot names, and the price tag associated with them?

Familiarity would be a good bet.

Still, the Steelers are linked to free agent cornerback Alterraun Verner, even after the fourth year pro from UCLA and the Tennessee Titans looks to hit somewhere around a $12 million per year contract when free agency starts at 4 p.m. ET March 11.

A big part of any alleged interest may be coming from the one angle the Steelers have that other teams do not - their defensive backs coach was Verner's position coach in college.

Lake left the Bruins team in February of 2010, right after Verner completed his eligibility and was preparing for the NFL Draft. Jon Gold of Inside UCLA connected with Verner at the time, asking him how he felt about Lake's sudden departure.

JG: What do you credit Lake for in relation to your own game?

AV: Oh man, the guy is very knowledgeable. Just the mentality of attacking practice, the mentality of going into the game, the mentality of playing the position. He did it at the highest level and did it really well. He brought that to his coaching, but not only that, he’d listen to you as a player and not just dictate to you.

Gold asked Verner about Lake's surprise departure, which reportedly was for family reasons.

"Of course, it’s a shock. Nobody expected it, nobody in the Bruin nation. I know it will have to be some good reason. I read its family reason, and that’s the type of guy he is. I just hope everything is OK."

Lake was out of coaching in 2010, and accepted the Steelers secondary coach position after Ray Horton left for Arizona in 2011.

Whether that gives the Steelers any skin in the game that's shaping up to be the most actively played in free agency remains to be seen. But since we're going there, we may as well point out the Steelers also have Verner's former head coach, Mike Munchak on staff.

Knowing that, expect these things to be enjoyable coincidences, without much more significance.

Now, if the Steelers hire Verner's prep head coach (Andrew Slome of Mayfair High School) in the next two days, we may think something is going on, but until then, we'll continue to consider Verner's price tag being a bit out of range for the Steelers.

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