Cornerback seems to always be a glaring need for the Pittsburgh Steelers. These days you need three of starter-quality at the position. It's true that Artie Burns, after only one season, seems to have taken huge steps to assuming the role as a mainstay at the position. Everyone else is a question mark. Ross Cockrell was given a lowball offer and could very well depart. Senquez Golson is merely a ghost until he at least plays in one preseason game. William Gay has shown some decline on his advancing age and may end up a cap casualty. So, the unit needs addressing once again.
Cockrell staying would help hold the unit together. But the team's alleged interest in Dre Kirkpatrick could be a sign that the team is serious about investing in a different corner.
Here are the top free agents at the corner position and whether or not they could find their way to the Steel City.
Malcolm Butler - RFA - New England Patriots
Butler was assigned a first-round tender for $3.91 million for 2017. The SB 49 hero has 31 pass defenses and six interceptions the past two seasons. I foresee Butler signing a long-term deal to stay in New England and I don't see Pittsburgh giving up the number-one pick necessary to sign him.
AJ Bouye - Houston Texans
Bouye took four years to come out of the shadows, but in just one season, he has emerged as a Pro Bowler and a shutdown corner. In 15 games, he had 16 pass defenses and an interception. Bouye is going to get paid, but the gamble is predicting whether or not he's a walk-year wonder. The Steelers could kick the tires of the Texan, but will probably not get in a bidding war for him like the Texans, Browns, Eagles, Colts, 49ers, Titans, Jaguars are willing to.
Trumaine Johnson - Los Angeles Rams
The Rams just franchised the outstanding corner, but are looking to trade him now. Johnson excels in coverage, but is merely an average tackler. Johnson had seven interceptions and 17 pass defenses in only 14 games in 2015 and one pick and 11 pass defenses in 14 2016 games. Although a high caliber corner, I don't for see the Steelers giving up picks or players for a possible one-year rental for a $16.7 million-dollar player.
Brandon Flowers - Los Angeles Chargers
Flowers is 31, but was cut on Tuesday to clear cap space. The veteran had five pass defenses and one pick in only six games last year due to two concussions. If healthy, Flowers could be a great fit on a team-friendly "prove-it" deal. I could see the Steelers going after Flowers. However, a free agent signing of a concussion-prone Charger seems like bad deja-vú.
Dre Kirkpatrick - Cincinnati Bengals
Kirkpatrick has been linked to Pittsburgh and the Tennessee Titans. But then again, everybody's been linked to the Tennessee Titans. My seven-year-old daughter has been linked to the Tennessee Titans. Dre has talent. In fact, he has done very well in his five seasons in the league neutralizing Antonio Brown. With nine career picks, the Pro Bowl corner has averaged 13 pass defenses the past two years. What scares me about the Alabama product is discipline and composure. All you need to know about this guy is December 18, 2016. His second-half implosion sunk the Bengals against the Steelers with his multiple penalties. I'd stay away, but the Steelers know more than I do. If they can reign him in, he could be a coup. They have a decent shot olf bringing Kirkpatrick in.
Stephon Gilmore - Buffalo Bills
At age 26, Gilmore has had a very solid career and may cash-in around the $12-15 million neighborhood. The All-Pro and Pro Bowler Gilmore had five of his 14 career picks in 2016. The Steelers would definitely welcome a player of such immense talent. However, the Bears are pursuing him hard and I see the Steelers looking elsewhere.
Darelle Revis - New York Jets
Revis, at 32, has regressed. However, he still seems to have gas left in the tank at corner or safety. Due to his legal troubles, I think Pittsburgh, at a hometown discount, would be a likely landing spot.
Prince Amukamara - Jacksonville Jaguars
Logan Ryan - New England Patriots
Morris Claiborne - Dallas Cowboys
Sam Shields - Green Bay Packers
Deshawn Shead - RFA - Seattle Seahawks
Captain Munnerlyn - Minnesota Vikings
Marcus Williams - RFA - New York Jets
Darius Butler – Indianapolis Colts
Brandon Carr - Dallas Cowboys
Leon Hall - New York Jets
Brice McCain - Tennessee Titans
Nolan Carroll - Philadelphia Eagles
Terence Newman - Minnesota Vikings
Davon House - Jacksonville Jaguars