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Cory Trice Jr. won’t be sneaking up on anyone this summer

Gone are the days when a player like Cory Trice Jr., the Steelers seventh-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, could actually surprise fans at training camp. How can an underdog surprise you when you already know so much about him and expect him to be good weeks before training camp even starts?

NFL Combine Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Did you know cornerback Cory Trice, the Steelers' seventh-round pick from Purdue in the 2023 NFL Draft, is being slept on?

Did you know he really should have been selected much higher?

Did you know Trice is just as big and fast as Joey Porter Jr., the first of two Steelers' second-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft?

Did you know Trice (like Porter, also a Junior) has been receiving high praise from his teammates during the ongoing OTAs? Porter Jr. and Trice Jr. It’s like they’re on equal footing and everything. And they’re both learning from Patrick Peterson, “Pat Pete,” the veteran cornerback who has taken these youngsters under his wings (plural).

Did you know Trice has a chance to be the (say it with me) steal of the draft?

Of course, you know all of these things about Trice. You also know that Trice is now officially one of the Steelers rookies who is expected to “surprise” everyone at training camp this summer.

Only, how can Trice surprise anyone after we’ve learned so much about him already? How can he be a sleeper in training camp when our eyes became fixated on his potential the moment he was picked on Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft? How can Trice possibly be a candidate for the BTSC Isaac Redman Award when he’s always being talked about on the same level as Porter Jr., a rookie who is not eligible for the honor thanks to his much loftier draft status?

I remember the Monday after the 2021 NFL Draft. I was sitting outside of a Panera in Scott Township. Along with drinking my coffee and eating my $1.19 banana, I was jotting down information about the Steelers’ class of undrafted free agents; this class included Michigan State cornerback Shakur Brown, aka “Mr. PFF Grade.” How could so many teams pass on Brown? How could he not make an impact at Steelers training camp that summer?

Did Brown win that year’s Isaac Redman Award? No, he got cut and is now a member of the XFL’s Arlington Renegades. That’s right, despite countless articles written about Brown’s potential that spring and summer (some of which will likely be found and used by ElRocco the next time he wants to show up a BTSC writer—the man is just creepy), it turned out the youngster went undrafted for a reason.

But it wasn’t just Brown. There were other high-profile sleepers from the 2021 class of undrafted free agents, including Rico Bussey, receiver, Hawaii; Mark Gilbert, cornerback, Duke; and Lamont Wade, safety, Penn State.

None of them lived up to their “sleeper” potential, and as far as I know, Gilbert, who is a member of the USFL’s Pittsburgh Maulers, is the only one even playing football at the moment.

Of course, back in the day—a day that didn’t include social media and the 24/7 news cycle—it wouldn’t have been much of a shock that none of the above players made Pittsburgh’s active squad out of training camp. Back then, UDFAs like Brown could really be sleepers, and the fans and media could actually be surprised if they stood out at training camp.

Now, we’re disappointed when underdogs don’t “surprise” us.

I guess this is the price you pay when you live in an era that requires constant “content” to satisfy the insatiable appetite of your average NFL fan.

Best of luck to Cory Trice on being a high-profile sleeper at Saint Vincent this summer.

Maybe Trice will become a star by covering Hakeem Butler, a former XFL receiver who I expect to surprise me at training camp.