In a new feature at BTSC, we will take a point/counterpoint look at the team's upcoming needs in the 2015 NFL Draft, and whether the team should target, or avoid, selecting that particular position with their first round draft pick at the No. 22 selection. Today we tackle the thought of selecting a cornerback in Round 1. Which side to you stand on?
Point - Jeff Hartman
The Steelers are desperately thin at the defensive back position. So much so their depth chart resembles a cast of throw aways on the Island of Misfit Toys. William Gay, Cortez Allen, Antwon Blake, and B.W. Webb. Oh, and don't forget Kevin Fogg.
The point here is simple, in today's NFL great pass rushers have become more and more mundane. There are less and less premier pass rushers for the simple fact teams aren't having their quarterbacks hold onto the ball as long anymore. The West Coast style offense is dominating the NFL landscape, making it difficult for edge rushers to 'get home'. The way teams are getting to quarterbacks is through coverage.
Have a cornerback like Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman, who can take away one side of the field, and suddenly the quarterback has to move through his progressions, giving the pass rush more time to collapse the pocket. The Steelers don't have those type of cornerbacks, to be honest they don't even have cornerbacks who can try and do that on their current roster.
Being 100-percent honest here, it is obvious a rookie won't be able to step in on Day 1 and play like Revis or Sherman, but selecting a stud cornerback in the first round could put the pieces in place for the future of the team's secondary.
Lastly, the team's pass rush could be just fine in 2015 without the assistance of another first round linebacker being selected. James Harrison is working his tail off in Arizona with the other young buck linebackers, and looks to be more than prepared to start his new role as a "part-time" pass rusher. Arthur Moats was the best pass rusher the team had in terms of his production and time on the field in 2014. Heck, even Jarvis Jones had 2, should have been 3, sacks in 3 games in 2014 before injuring his wrist setting back what could have been a break out season.
Which position needs more immediate attention? In my opinion, the cornerback position.
Counterpoint - Mike Frazer
It's obvious the Pittsburgh Steelers are perilously thin at corner back. So thin, in fact, that only one of the guys currently on the roster actually looked like a starting defensive back in 2014.
Based on all of that, it's obvious where the Steelers need to focus their first-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
The front seven.
No, I haven't lost my mind. The simple fact is that a strong pass rush helps a weak secondary more than a strong secondary helps a weak pass rush. A secondary consisting of Darrelle Revis, Patrick Peterson, and both Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu in their primes will get beat by a middling quarterback with a basic ability to read a defense and time to throw.
Conversely, give a mediocre defensive coordinator a pass rush featuring...well, the 2008 Steelers front seven, if we're looking for the best ever in this argument, and things will look very different, even in front of the Steelers' current crop of corners.
Given the right personnel up front, and a defensive scheme you can find in a book at Barnes & Noble, a team can generate pressure. And despite what any defensive back would love to tell you, that pressure up front generates the bulk of turnovers in the passing game. Sure, there are corners who can make excellent reads and jump routes with some degree of consistency. Heck, Gay, himself, did it last year. But by and large, interceptions begin up front. A quarterback forced into a quick decision is a quarterback who often regrets that decision.
Don't take this as me saying the corners available in the draft aren't very good. There are certainly some excellent options at corner back at the top of the draft this year. Trae Waynes and Marcus Peters are about as good as you will find most years, and others like Kevin Johnson, Jalen Collins and P.J. Williams are not far behind at all.
But -- and hear is the crux of the argument -- there are a lot of corners who are just a half a step behind those three, and they will all be available sometime in rounds two through four, most likely. We aren't talking about guys who will be the "day-three projects" Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin have been in love with the last few years. These are legitimate, NFL-capable corners.
The bottom line: there are other positions where the value to the team will be greater in round one, despite the glaring need at corner. It would be easy to be infatuated by a few of these guys -- and if Waynes somehow found his way to the 22nd pick, I'd be hard-pressed to find an argument against him. But I'm pretty sure I would manage to do just that, because -- as the old Heinz Kethcup commercial goes -- the best things come to those who wait.