clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Analyzing the matchup between the Steelers passing game and the Ravens secondary (Post Draft Edition)

Pittsburgh's receiving corps seemed pretty complete coming into the draft, but in the 7th round the team picked up Demarcus Ayers. On top of this, Baltimore was, and still is, struggling with their secondary, and so drafted two cornerbacks. How has this affected the matchup between the Pittsburgh passing game and the Baltimore secondary?

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As to be expected, the draft can change how a team works due to filling holes on the depth chart. Teams draft for need, that's primarily why Baltimore selected two cornerbacks this year. Baltimore spent a fourth round pick on Temple's Tavon Young, a slightly smaller than average, but still aggressive, player. They then spent a sixth round pick on the University of Virginia's Maurice Canady, a tall and light footed cornerback. In terms of undrafted free agents, Baltimore picked up Patrick Onwuaser, a strong safety - but with the likes of Eric Weddle on the roster, I can't see him getting off of the practice squad - so I won't talk about him here.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, drafted experienced kick/punt returner Demarcus Ayers, despite the depth at wide receiver. The Steelers also picked up three undrafted free agents - David Reeves (a tight end), Jay Rome (another tight end) and Canaan Severin (a wide receiver).  Again, these players are unlikely to make any impact this season, so I won't be talking about them.

Last time I wrote about this matchup I weighed this massively in Pittsburgh's favor - even with the loss of Miller and Bryant, and the Ravens picking up Weddle, Pittsburgh is by far the more complete unit. Has the draft changed this?

To see the real impact of these drafted players, whether or not they will actually see the gridiron has to be considered. Pittsburgh's Demarcus Ayers, after all, has a lot of competition. It is a certainty that all known commodities will return for playing time - Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sammie Coates will all return. With the loss of Martavis Bryant for the season, there is a gap to be filled.

This gap would normally be filled by someone from the practice squad. The major factor as to who could take that spot would be their ability to return kicks and punts, to take some of the weight off of Brown. One player sticks in my mind instantly as to who is a talented returner - Demarcus Ayers. Perhaps the Steelers were eyeing him up from the start due to this skill set, maybe with this pick they were drafting for need. IF that is the case, because I'm not certain at this point, then that last spot will go to Ayers. The guy has talent outside of kick returns too - his frame could take more muscle (something that is going to be useful breaking tackles at this level of the game considering his below average stature) and has great ability in fooling defenders with aggressive jab steps and good shoulder and head fakes. Something that could be pointed out that his great stats are exaggerated - the scheme he was in at Houston fed him balls regularly. When looking at his downside, he does lack experience in a complicated passing attack like Pittsburgh - but that's what training camp is for. He will learn where his place in the scheme is and has potential to excel.

In terms of the Baltimore secondary, the situation at cornerback is similar - Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Will Davis (despite the season ending ACL tear) and Anthony Levine will return to the field. Again that leaves one spot - but who out of Young and Canady will get it?

Tavon Young, despite being 5'9" and 183 lbs, plays big and physically. He's got great skill in getting the ball free, and is very aggressive in preventing the catch. The problem here is his size - he could get pushed around a little too much by the bigger receivers and when going for the tackle can get a little grabby resulting in penalty flags being thrown (of course this can be trained and coached). I don't think he's going to wow anyone in his rookie season, but you never know.

Maurice Canady, on the other hand, has a different set of problems. He's above average height for the position at 6'1", but has light feet. He can play slot and outside, and has good instincts as well as change of direction. On the other hand, he's not the quickest and had no interceptions in his last season at UVA. On top of all that, he's not the fastest CB either. Finally, he finds it difficult to find the ball when beaten over the top. I think with the amount of competition, he's unlikely to make the roster this year, but could be one to watch in future seasons.

Before the draft I weighed this in favor of Pittsburgh, and despite not really changing the passing game, I'm struggling for any reason to not do the same. Yes, Baltimore has Eric Weddle, but Pittsburgh has so much more, as well as ever reliable Antonio Brown. I don't think Baltimore's draft has changed much either, the only difference is a rookie at cornerback - and who ever it is, I don't think either of them are prolific enough to really make much on impact. This matchup it definitely in favor of the Steelers.