All is not lost, advises Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake. The cornerbacks on the Steelers' roster currently are better than you might think.
The Steelers selected only one cornerback in the 2014 NFL Draft, where their relatively shallow depth chart - experience-wise - and having no corners with starting experience signed beyond 2015 suggested taking one in the first two rounds and another one in the middle rounds might have been a wise strategy.
The players, Lake points out, may have been there all along.
The Steelers signed Antwon Blake, last season after he spent one year as an undrafted free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He told Steelers.com on draft day there are good things coming from Blake - a third-year player from UTEP who played primarily on special teams last year.
I had him graded fairly high going into last year’s draft. Blake is very fast. He didn’t get invited to the Combine; some clocks had him sub-4.3 (in the 40-yard dash). He’s very strong on top of that, he’s quick.
"He was so tough the Jaguars tried to use him at safety even though he’s under 6-foot (5-9, 198). He turned out to be a really good special teams player for us. I’m thinking he could turn out to be a really good corner for us.
Speed and toughness. Sounds like he fit in like with the Steelers' motif back before it became the Steelers' motif for 2014. That motif led to the free agent signing of free safety Mike Mitchell, an excellent athlete who isn't allergic to contact.
Lake will make no apologies about it, he said he's looking for fast, tough cornerbacks. That was the area of concern for this unit after finishing the 2013 season in contrast from the positive overall performances of the last two years.
Houston's Brice McCain is another free agent signing Lake experience some optimism toward after the Steelers signed him this offseason. He's another cornerback on the short side, but in his case, he's shown he can play at an outstanding level in the NFL. He also clocked a 4.33 40-yard dash time at the Combine in 2009.
There's a trend here. Height isn't as important as speed and quickness.
Lake will get the full package with the cornerback they did draft; Arizona's Shaquille Richardson. At 6-foot-0, he's an explosive athlete, having run a 4.43 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, and a career that can be labeled as somewhat high-and-low. At his best, he looks like an instinctive quick-twitch athlete who can make plays on the ball.
Three projects for coach Lake, all of whom appear to be battling for positions on the defense and will need to show ability on special teams. So all isn't lost, all just hasn't shown itself yet.