clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Has cornerback become the best position group for the Steelers?

New, comments

What was the weakest link for decades is now one of the NFL’s elite units

Pittsburgh Steelers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It has felt like an eternity since Rod Woodson was putting the clamps on wide receivers as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since his departure in 1997 the team never seemed to be able to replicate that level of cornerback play.

Ike Taylor was a good corner for a number of years but he was never a turnover machine, Deshea Townsend had a 4 year stretch of solid play, and Bryant McFadden played well when called upon. But with such dominant pass-rushers and safeties surrounding them, the mid-2000’s unit would never be considered the best on the team.

More recently the Steelers became an offensive juggernaut which would often be let down by their defense. More specifically, they would be let down by poor corner play, and stuck in an endless circle of Ross Cockrell, Antwon Blake, and Artie Burns type players. But in 2019 the defense once again became the teams top unit. Thanks in part to the Steelers corners.

The Steelers built this unit in an unconventional way— turning to the Free Agent market. Just check out this projected 2020 depth chart:

LCB
Joe Haden
Justin Layne

RCB
Steven Nelson
Trajan Bandy/Breon Borders

Slot CB
Mike Hilton
Cameron Sutton

*Flex player
Minkah Fitzpatrick

Joe Haden had a career year at the age of 30. He put up 5 picks, was 4th in the NFL for passes defended, and has showed no signs of slowing down.

Steven Nelson didn't allow a single touchdown reception a year ago, and is criminally underrated.

Mike Hilton, is arguably the best nickel corner in the game. He has the ability to step up into run, rush the quarterback, and blanket receivers.

Legitimately, the trio of Haden, Nelson, and Hilton could represent the club in the Pro Bowl. Furthermore, Minkah Fitzpatrick is still one of the best young safeties in the game, and has gone on record to say he’s willing to move around on the field which is only going to make this squad harder to play against in 2020.

The craziest part about all this is Justin Layne and Cam Sutton could probably start at corner on several NFL teams. It’s this kind of depth which can lead a team to a championship, and the Steelers are going to need each of them if they want to do anything in the playoffs.

What’s the hierarchy of the Steelers position groups? Here’s what my list looks like:

Corners —Top end stars and loaded top to bottom
Defensive Line —Hargrave will be missed, but Heyward and Tuitt are game-breakers when they’re on
Linebackers —Watt, Dupree, and Bush are stars. Can Williams play every down/is Gilbert ready?
Quarterbacks —They’ll go up or down depending on Ben’s health
Offensive Line —Aging unit full of some greats. They need to be better in 2020
Receivers —They have the highest ceiling but its dependent on a JuJu rebound
Safeties —Minkah Fitzpatrick is a beast, but they lack depth and questions still surround Edmunds
Running Backs --Too many question marks

What group do you think is the Steelers best unit? Make sure you vote in the poll and let us know in the comments below!

Poll

What is the strongest position group on the Steelers going into 2020?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Cornerbacks
    (214 votes)
  • 13%
    Defensive Line
    (102 votes)
  • 45%
    Linebackers
    (342 votes)
  • 1%
    Quarterbacks
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    Offensive Line
    (6 votes)
  • 9%
    Receivers
    (70 votes)
  • 0%
    Safeties
    (7 votes)
  • 1%
    Running Backs
    (9 votes)
758 votes total Vote Now