With the signing of former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback, Pittsburgh Steelers fans were excited. Steven Nelson. The Steelers appear to be letting Coty Sensabaugh walk via free agency and Artie Burns floundering in 2019; the team had a major hole at starting cornerback opposite Joe Haden.
Nelson was tested in a trial by fire last season as he was the most targeted cornerback in the league. Doubtful that Steelers fans watched him week in and week out. That being said, the folks over at Pro Football Focus did that very thing last season.
PFF is often viewed as a polarizing site with its in-depth grading and proprietary ratings. If nothing else, they offer their insight of players who fans may not have seen play or only in highlights.
Nuggets of information put out by PFF about Nelson:
2019 PFF grade: 72.1 is the highest of his career.
2017 PFF grade: 69.6
2016 PFF grade: 64.3
Opposing quarterbacks targeted Nelson 113 times last season, which led the league during the regular season.
Nelson allowed the second most yards, 825 in 2018, but his 53.1 (eighth best in the NFL) completion percentage and 76.8 passer rating shows why he landed as PFFs #21 ranked cornerback.
Through the first 12 weeks, quarterbacks targeted Nelson 86 times surrendering a 50 percent completion rate. Fifth best of all NFL cornerbacks. His 66.4 percent passer rating, at the time, was good enough for seventh best. His PFF grade at the time was 76.2.
Also through 12 weeks, he was targeted 52 times of passes 10 or more yards. On those plays, he surrendered 17 completions but had 11 forced incompletions. The 31.5 completion rate led all cornerbacks.
While those stats are impressive, one thing to take into account is that 30.2 percent of the 86 balls thrown his way were dropped or were not catchable.
At only 26 and improving each NFL season, Steelers fans have a reason to be excited about Nelson. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is maligned for his poor drafting of cornerbacks and head coach Mike Tomlin is chided for his inability to develop the draft picks, but the duo believes Nelson is the defender they have been searching for. On paper, Nelson is a feather in the cap for the organization as they look to land back in the playoffs next season. Can Nelson live up to those lofty numbers from PFF last season? Fans can only wait and hope.