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Don’t sleep on Steelers CB Desmond King

The late signing of Desmond King is easily lost in the excitement over Week 1, but it’s actually one of the biggest moves of the offseason.

NFL: Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason has seen a number of big free agent signings for the Steelers. The likes of Isaac Seumalo, Allen Robinson, and Patrick Peterson were big-name acquisitions, while guys like Elandon Roberts, Kwon Alexander, and Cole Holcomb are going to play big roles in a much-needed area. The excitement of these acquisitions was augmented by the fact that there wasn’t much else going on in the football world, and we had plenty of time while watching them in training camp and preseason to get excited about their potential impact on the team.

With Week 1 just around the corner, the focus has shifted to games rather than personnel and there’s less opportunity to get excited about the latest big signing by Omar Khan- Desmond King.

Ever since he entered the league. it’s been obvious King is a great fit for the Steelers. Draft nerds like myself loved his toughness, intelligence, and playmaking. He was knocked for a lack of height and athleticism, but there was no way to miss that he was a football player through and through. The Steelers ended up drafting Cameron Sutton at the tail end of the 3rd round, leaving King for the Chargers just over a round later, but he’s still a great fit for the Steelers as a durable, physical, versatile player with a blue collar attitude, and it’s no surprise he finally ended up in Pittsburgh.

Now that he’s here, you can expect him to make his presence felt as well. King is a former First Team All-Pro at his position, a fact that has largely been discounted because it was all the way back in 2018. That said, he’s still just 28 (turning 29 during the season), and he’s never had a major injury. He may be on the back end of his prime, but he’s not over the hill, and he should still be able to play at as high a level as he ever has.

Compared to signings like Allen Robinson and Patrick Peterson, King definitely has more left in the tank and he’s got plenty to offer, especially in a system that’s tailor made for his strengths. There’s no conjecture or projection about how maybe he’ll be good in our system and other teams just misused him. He is very good, and in the Steelers’ system, he could be great.

While we’re comparing King to other players, his stat line may remind you a lot of Mike Hilton. King posted a whopping 10 tackles for loss last season and posted 4 sacks his rookie year. He plays the slot CB position with a linebacker’s mentality and is a major threat to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. That’s not to obscure the fact that he’s pretty good in coverage as well. PFF had him rated higher than Cam Sutton in coverage last year. In short, he’s a perfect fit for what the Steelers like to do with their slot cornerbacks.

Speaking of Sutton, King’s value as a replacement for the guy the Steelers drafted ahead of him is noteworthy. King isn’t as good in coverage as Sutton but provides a much more physical presence that makes him a much better slot CB in the Steelers system. He also has played extensively outside during his career, and his ability to play outside or drop back and play like a safety gives him much of the same kind of versatility the Steelers lost in Sutton. And for a tenth of the cost.

The biggest and most important comparison, though, is to the guy who would’ve been playing slot corner if we hadn’t signed King. Chandon Sullivan had a nice camp and preseason, but he’s just not the same caliber of player as King. Patrick Peterson has been mentioned as a slot option, but there’s a lot of conjecture there. King instantly elevates the credibility of our slot corner position overall, and his ideal fit in our system could lead to a really dynamic impact. With all the explosive offenses in the AFC, a difference maker at slot corner rather than a “we can make do with this guy” could really be key.

The bottom line is that Desmond King is a good player who presents a truly exciting level of fit with the Steelers. While some of that excitement is lost in the thrill of real football games just around the corner, Omar Khan definitely deserves his due for really bolstering his defense with a terrific signing, and fans can be even more excited for the beginning of the season to see what King brings to the team.