Steelers will need to cut Haden or Nelson to improve CB room
Other options to replace
Before I get into specific players, talking about the broadest and least likely options make the most sense. For starters, the Steelers could cut either of their starters and attempt to replace them in free agency. Unfortunately, the elite players at this position get paid as such, and for the cap-strapped Steelers, it will likely be far too much to afford even after a release. In turn, they would likely be targeting a player for 5-7 million a season as well as adding a corner early in the draft.
Based on the numbers from last year, that would leave the Steelers best free agents in the range of a Mackensie Alexander to Josh Norman. Both would be downgrades from either Nelson or Haden, so this doesn’t seem like the best course of action from the Steelers. The other option would be rolling with Justin Layne on the outside. He would be entering his third season as a pro and given the third-round pick invested in him, it may be time for him to see the field.
Though Layne had intriguing size coming out of Michigan State, he has only seen 39 total defensive snaps to this date. While he has been seeing more work in rotation in recent weeks, it isn’t like he is making a lot of noticeable plays or standing out as a player that needs to start. In fact, he is credited with being target twice so far this season, and both targets have ended in completions for the opposing team.
This doesn’t mean Layne can’t start, but it does mean that he will need to show some improvement as he sees more playing time this season. Either way, this route of cutting a starter and looking outside the Steelers/at Layne to start makes the least sense.