The Pittsburgh Steelers currently hold the 25th overall pick in the NFL Draft. Many have speculated that the Steelers will address their struggling secondary, especially the lack of depth at cornerback. Who are some of the prospects that the Steelers should consider in the first round?
The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the offseason with expectations to bring aid to a secondary that ranked 30th in the league in 2015. While other holes on the roster need to be filled such as tight end, offensive line, or even defensive line, there is no greater need for the team than help in the secondary.
Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks have consistently struggled over the past few years, and have been unable to hold their own against top rated wide receivers, and plenty of tight ends as well. Within the division itself, the number of times AJ Green has torched Pittsburgh’s defense is absurd. It’s almost as if he has at least one game changing play every time the two teams collide.
In fact, it’s safe to say that no true #1 cornerback has emerged in Pittsburgh since the latter years of Ike Taylor. William Gay has done a pretty good job; he was actually the only cornerback not to allow a touchdown last year, but he’s still not able to fix the issue himself, and he’s getting up there in age.
Luckily, this year’s draft pool at the position is pretty deep, and it shouldn’t be hard for Pittsburgh to come out with a player or two with real potential.
It’s unlikely, unless the Steelers choose to trade up, which is also unlikely, that Pittsburgh will be able to draft the top two cornerbacks in the draft, being Jalen Ramsey out of Florida State and Vernon Hargreaves III out of Florida.
A lot of analysts have the Steelers choosing either Mackenzie Alexander from Clemson or Eli Apple out of Ohio State. Pittsburgh has had a history of choosing players from Ohio State in recent years, and that could easily continue with Eli Apple.
Eli Apple is a prospect with a ton of promise. In a recent interview, he actually acknowledged the possibility of playing for Pittsburgh with open arms, saying “it would be a blessing to be drafted by the Steelers.”
The 6’1″, 198lb cornerback has been praised for his work ethic and improvement in play over the last two years, defending 22 passes in that time. He was also a huge part of the national title run in his redshirt freshman year back in 2014.
After a stellar combine, Apple has become a player to be desired, and might even be picked before the Steelers get the chance at 25. If he does happen to fall into Pittsburgh’s lap, he’s definitely someone they should think about, and might be too tempting to pass on.
The other major prospect that the Steelers should consider in Mackenzie Alexander. Alexander is definitely one of the more mysteriously interesting cornerbacks in this draft. His stats are by no means mind blowing.
In his entire college career, Mackenzie didn’t register a single interception, yet is still seen as one of the best prospects in the league? How can that be?
The reason he never got any interceptions was because simply no one would ever pass in his direction. He was a complete shut down cornerback, with amazing press, and while only 5’10”, has shown the capability of facing off against the best.
Those two prospects are probably the most reasonable, and likely candidates for Pittsburgh to use their first round pick on. I would think it’s likely they’d look at another position such as Hunter Henry at tight end out of Arkansas if those cornerbacks have been selected.
With that being said, don’t be totally surprised if they take a look at William Jackson out of Houston, Kendall Fuller out of Virginia Tech, or even Artie Burns out of Miami. While they may be more second round options, Pittsburgh could decide to reach for them to fix the secondary instead of hope they stick around until the end of the 2nd round.
This year’s draft is filled with a lot of potential, and so many options for the 1st round, and definitely later rounds as well.