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Seahawks Richard Sherman represents what Steelers have missed in scouting

The Seahawks’ cornerback is perhaps the best cornerback in the NFL, just a few seasons after being selected in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. The Steelers have dipped into fifth round cornerbacks in consecutive drafts with no success. When a team is on the clock in the middle rounds, can they see the traits that would make the diamond rise above the rough?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman clutched his left arm at his side, clearly injured, and showing Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers he was going to struggle to tackle. It looked like quick passes in front of Sherman would force him to make Deion-like one-arm tackles, and could help the Packers score on what could have been a game-winning drive. Getting Pro Bowl receiver Jordy Nelson to break to Sherman's right, effectively taking away his left-armed jam, seemed to be the way to get him open.

That probably would have worked against just about any other corner in the league. But this wasn't just any other corner. This was Richard Sherman, he of the 24 interceptions in four years - by most measures, the best cornerback on the planet.

It didn't work. Sherman just used his shoulder to cut Nelson off before he could fully get into his break.

Without full use of his arm, Sherman continued to enforce a basic rule of pass defense; nothing beats a lack of targets. The best cornerbacks are the ones not tested.

Rodgers had said before the game he wasn't afraid of testing the Seahawks' All Pro cornerback.

Sherman picked him off in the first quarter, and even after he was injured, Rodgers didn't increase the amount of targets going his way. It wasn't fear, it was skill. Sherman uses the often-discounted weapon of a defensive back: his head.

He doesn't use it to hit the outside of the heads of opposing players. He uses it to get inside of them. Sometimes it's trash talk, sometimes it's superior technical skill. Or, in this case, when a serious injury left him with one functional arm, it's simply incredible adaptation. And this from a player in only his fourth NFL season.

Physical talent oozes from the highlight reels of the consensus top-three cornerbacks in the 2015 NFL Draft like cyber-slime. The boring version of all three of them - they're great athletes. They have long limbs even if they aren't the tallest guys out there. They all make plays on the ball. But how well will they play when they are less than 100 percent? When no way presents itself from letting a team ruin their claim on becoming one of the best defenses in the history of the game, will he find a way anyway?

That's a pretty specific question to ask Marcus Peters of Washington, Kevin Johnson of Wake Forest, or Trae Waynes of Michgan State. The media will likely ask more bluntly, "Is this guy the next Richard Sherman?"

Most knowledgeable observers of the draft that there's a right way to draft, and there's a wrong way, and sticking with the head and not the heart is a must. Outside of that, the draft is essentially a crap shoot, and Sherman may be the best example of that in today's game. Credit the Seahawks with having found a few excellent players and building the foundation of a dynasty. But don't view them as so incredibly advanced, they knew they could wait until the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft to select one of the game's best defensive players.

They may have known he'd be a good player, but a multiple-time All-Pro? No chance.

Perhaps it's as simple as they're making it look. Find a smart player with long arms and excellent mirroring technique, don't worry so much about disagreements he may have had with coaches, if he shows himself to be an intelligent and hard-working young man and try to see, based on what you're watching, if this guy will find a way to beat the best, even when he's not at his own best.

Just because Sherman was a fifth-round pick, the Steelers can't be faulted for blowing two fifth-round picks on Terry Hawthorne and Shaquille Richardson. If anything, it would seem the Steelers are quite literally trying to find the next Sherman by selecting cornerbacks in that round every year. But what did they miss in not evaluating and giving Sherman better than, at least, a fifth-round grade? Was it anything Seattle saw that the Steelers didn't?

Probably not. But finding their diamond in the rough - the talented player who falls on draft day through a variety of soft reasons but still fits their scheme perfectly - seems easier if the scope of the search is widened a bit. The Steelers found themselves in a bit of a cap quagmire heading into 2014, and it made more sense to keep veteran CB Ike Taylor on a lesser deal than it did to cut him outright, absorbing a cap hit along with signing another player. Because of that, Taylor became essentially a barrier to the possible development of another player.

Seattle didn't have that problem in 2011, when Sherman joined the Seahawks. Taking one step back to take 25 steps forward at the position worked out well. And with Taylor gone now, and pretty much an open competition at cornerback, it's fully possible the Steelers are finally able to begin thinking in earnest about finding a moldable, smart, competitive and driven young cornerback with a massive chip on his shoulder to come in and seize his opportunity.

Who knows? Maybe they'll find the guy who will follow Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton off the field, asking, "Are you mad, bro?"

Peters, Johnson and Waynes look to be excellent prospects. I'd bet money there will be at least 30 players taken after the 22nd pick who will end up being better than them. That isn't knocking them, that's the reality of such a wide pool of talent funneling so narrowly through its tube. Finding players who find ways to use their shoulders just as effectively as their hands when injured can't be easy to spot. Players who find ways to beat their opponents mentally, if not physically, must be even more difficult, but I'd argue it's most important to the cornerback position. Certainly, the physical skill is critical, and Sherman is no slouch of an athlete. But if anyone were to write today a random cornerback from a respectable - but not dominant - Division I program would be, in two years' time, the best cornerback in football, he'd be mocked and ridiculed until my fingers grew strained from typing it.

Sherman's 40-time or whatever alleged issues with coach Jim Harbaugh at Stanford had nothing at all to do with a successful performance in the NFC Championship game after the 2014 season. What we don't know will make April's draft picks great. Smart teams take their chances with the steady picks, but the great teams gambled on a few prospects here and there.

What Sherman represents to Seattle is not a reflection on the Steelers' inability to scout, but rather, a few gambles that came up successful. The next cornerback the Steelers take may be in the first round, it may again be in the fifth. Until anyone comes up with any kind of assurance in regards to where to draft what position, outside of some game-influenced probability, we just don't know who the next Sherman will be.

If that's the case, we should be applauding for the Steelers not to just look at cornerbacks in the first and second round, but the later rounds as well. Because the selection of the cornerback who can still stand toe-to-toe with a receiver the level of Nelson would be welcomed on the Steelers, the round in which he was drafted becoming completely irrelevant.