Future of the Steelers: Breaking down cornerbacks contracts over the next few seasons

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Perhaps the position that's most up in the air, the Steelers are undergoing something of a cornerback facelift over the next two years. Which ones will stay and which ones will go is an important question over the next two years.

Discounting their 2014 draft picks and prospective undrafted players, the Pittsburgh Steelers have just 27 players signed past this season.

And six were selected during last year's NFL Draft.

PITTSBURGH -- None are among the cornerbacks on the current Steelers roster. That's why the club is highly likely to take at least one cornerback during this year's NFL Draft May 8-10, and some believe the Steelers will secure that position's future with a first-round selection.

Among the Steelers top cornerbacks, only William Gay is signed past this season. Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen are in the final years of their previous contracts, while newly acquired Brice McCain received just a one-year deal. Gay signed a three-year, $4.5 million contract when he returned to the Steelers last year. The deal included a $500,000 signing bonus. He will make $1.5 million the next two years and be an unrestricted free agent in 2016.

Taylor took a huge pay cut of $4.25 million so the Steelers wouldn't cut him during the final season of his last contract and will make $2.75 million this year. That's not peanuts, by any means, but it is considerably less than the $7 million he was scheduled to earn and count $11.94 million against the cap. Taylor, 34 (May 5), is the best-conditioned player on the roster, but his career clearly is on the down side entering his 12th NFL season.

The Steelers are hopeful that Allen's career is on an upswing. After selecting him from The Citadel in the fourth round during the 2011 NFL Draft, Allen outplayed third-round pick Curtis Brown from Texas. Injuries have hampered his career so far, but Allen has been successful when healthy. He actually has only missed four games in three seasons, but practice time has been limited during training camp as well as intermittently during each regular season.

Still, Allen has been a solid tackler and playmaker with more than 40 solo tackles and two interceptions during each of the past two seasons when he started 11 of 30 games. Allen originally signed a four-year, $2.432 million contract that included a $391,500 signing bonus. His base salary is $645,000 for his final year. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2015, and the Steelers most assuredly will extend him before it reaches that point.

McCain signed a one-year, $795,000 contract April 1. The deal included a $65,000 signing bonus, so he will make $730,000 this year. This signing was curious, because McCain was cut by the Houston Texans after an awful season when one website rated him the worst cornerback among the 110 in the league. It would be a miracle if he helps the Steelers at all this season, but they needed depth in the secondary and won't pay him too much.

The remaining cornerbacks on the roster are Antwon Blake, Isaiah Green and Devin Smith. The Steelers claimed Blake, 23, off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars before this past season. He had signed a three-year, $1.44 million contract in 2012 and has one year left at $570,000 this year. He will be a restricted free agent in 2015.

Green was on and off the Steelers roster last season, moved around to make room on the roster if needed and placed on the practice squad or cut and then re-signed. He received a future contract this year for $495,000 and will be an exclusive rights free agent next year. Smith also signed a future contract for $420,000 and will be an exclusive rights free agent as well in 2015.

This group can provide some depth, if necessary, and special teams work. But either will be hard pressed to make the roster from the outset.

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