Upon hearing the news that the Steelers inked free agent cornerback Steven Nelson to a three-year contract on Wednesday (at least, officially—thanks to legal tampering, it was actually Tuesday), I initially had a reaction similar to the folks in those AT&T Wireless ‘OK’ commercials.
“No worries, boss. I’m one of the conerbacks available in free agency.”
“You mean one of the best cornerbacks in free agency.”
“Something like that.”
I especially had that feeling as I drove home in my car on Wednesday afternoon and listened to a Kansas City talking head, who was a guest on 93.7 The Fan, describe Nelson’s time with the Chiefs a year ago as “Just being there.”
But after researching the list of cornerbacks available in free agency, I’m now comfortable in the idea that Nelson was a very good and solid acquisition for the Steelers.
Is he Mel Blount? No. Is he even Bradley Roby? According to some of the things I’ve read about Roby, why, I sure hope not.
This isn’t to say I wouldn’t have been excited about the signing of a Bradley Roby. Actually, I would have been thrilled with such news. However, my feelings would have strictly been based on name, meaning, one that I recognized.
I did not recognize the name Steven Nelson before I learned he would be the newest Steeler, but that doesn’t mean he won’t help improve the team’s secondary in 2019.
Four interceptions and 15 passes defensed would have been a nice stat-line for just about any Pittsburgh defensive back in 2018. Unfortunately, the entire defense could only muster a measly 15 takeaways—including just eight interceptions (and no member of the secondary had more than two). The person with two interceptions in 2018 was cornerback Joe Haden, who also added 12 passes defensed.
You might say Nelson’s impressive stats were the product of being targeted a lot as a member of a Chiefs’ defense that finished 31st against the pass.
Maybe. But would you say the same thing about Haden’s 2018 season? Hopefully not, because Haden was perhaps the team’s defensive MVP a year ago.
Anyway, while I’m certainly no expert on cornerback play, I do recognize a Steelers-type signing when I see one.
Nelson, 26 and a third-round pick out of Oregon State in 2015, came into his second contract the way you want a player to—with momentum. Otherwise, why would Pittsburgh offer him a deal worth $25.5 million over three years?
There’s still room to grow. There’s still room to improve.
This really reminds me of the Mike Mitchell deal in 2014 and the Ladarius Green deal in 2016. Did either player fully reach their potential with the Steelers? Mitchell did to an extent, while Green certainly did not. However, that doesn’t mean they weren’t really good signings aimed at improving specific areas of the football team.
The Steelers entered free agency needing a solid starting cornerback, and not only did they sign one, they signed one who also possesses youth and potential to improve over time.
I don’t have anything bad to say about Nelson, other than he’s not Mel Blount. But if he were Mel Blount, he wouldn’t have been available for the Steelers to sign.
Good. Solid. Young. A position of need.
You have to like the Steelers signing of Steven Nelson.