The Pittsburgh Steelers have 21 players who will be unrestricted free agents when their currents contracts expire March 21, so management has quite a few decisions to make before the roster is set.
Here is a position-by-position look at the current players and what could occur during the upcoming months. This 12th story looks at the cornerbacks.
PITTSBURGH -- Many believe the Steelers should take a cornerback with their No. 1 pick this season, the 15th overall selection in the first round, but that position actually is the deepest on the roster with seven players under contract.
Only one, however, is signed after this season. William Gay inked a three-year agreement prior to last season, and he is scheduled to make $1.5 million during each of the next two campaigns. Gay, who will be an unrestricted free agent in 2016, has limitations of size and speed. However, going into his eighth season, Gay has been the club's most consistent cornerback overall. Gay returned last year to the Steelers, the team that selected him in the fifth round during the 2007 NFL Draft, after spending 2012 with the Arizona Cardinals.
Gay started 14 games for the Steelers in 2009. That dropped to four in 2010, but he was a key defender in the nickel and dime defenses. He earned a starting spot again in 2011 and parlayed that into a nice contract with the Cards in 2012. He started 15 games for them, but a few mistakes in key games made Gay available for the Steelers to sign last March. He opened 11 games this past season for the Steelers, while Cortez Allen played in the slot.
Allen, who has played 44 of 48 games during his three NFL seasons, has 11 starts. He opened eight games last year, but was expected to be the starter after Keenan Lewis left via free agency after 2012. However, a training camp injury, which Allen has had during each season, slowed his progress. Gay also outplayed him and replaced him as the starter. Allen played a lot, and if he can stay healthy will be expected to start when this season begins.
Allen had two interceptions during each of the past two seasons, one returned for a touchdown last year, and three forced fumbles in 2012. He has been a solid tackler, but his coverage skills were not as sharp last fall. Allen is set to make $645,000 this season, and he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2015.
While Allen was the Steelers' fourth-round pick during the 2011 NFL Draft, University of Texas product Curtis Brown was their third-down selection that year and supposedly the better pick. However, Brown has been a non-factor since that day due to injuries and poor play. Brown ended last season on injured reserve and is scheduled to make $645,000 this season. But it's highly unlikely that the Steelers will keep him and amazing that he lasted this long.
The Steelers signed Antwon Blake in 2013 after he spent the 2012 season with the Jacksonville Jaguars and played in all 16 games for them. Blake played 14 games for the Steelers last fall and is scheduled to make $570,000 this year before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2015. The Steelers expect Blake to take his game to another level this year and earn more playing time.
This brings us to veteran Ike Taylor, who has played all 11 of his NFL seasons with the Steelers after they made him a fourth-round pick in 2003. Taylor is scheduled to make $7 million this year and be an unrestricted free agent in 2015, and some believe he should be released before this season. Taylor had some rough spots this past season, a few more than in recent years. Even though Taylor is the most well-conditioned Steelers player, his skills have begun to diminish, and he will be 34 going into training camp this year.
The other two players under contract are Devin Smith and Isaiah Green, who is scheduled to make $495,000 this year. Smith signed a reserve-future contract a couple weeks ago. Both players spent time on the Steelers' practice squad last year, but Green was on the active roster for three games as well.
- Steelers Roster Projections: Outside linebackers
- Steelers Roster Projections: Inside linebackers
- Steelers 2014 Roster Projections: Defensive ends
- Steelers 2014 Roster Projections: Nose tackles
- 2014 Steelers Roster Projections: Centers
- 2014 Steelers Roster Projections: Offensive guards
- Steelers 2014 roster projections: Offensive tackle
- Steelers 2014 Roster Projections: Tight ends
- Steelers 2014 roster projections: Wide receivers
- Steelers 2014 Roster Projections: Running backs
- Steelers Roster Projections: Quarterbacks