Steelers cornerback depth chart is a mess prior to minicamp

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback James Pierre (42). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback James Pierre (42). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Steelers need to figure out what they have going on at the cornerback position prior to the start of their 2021 minicamp. 

With a little Kevin Colbert salary cap magic and nine selections in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Steelers were able to not only salvage their roster this year but improve in several key positions. However, it would have taken a lot more draft capital to touch on every position that needed to be addressed. One position that particularly suffered this offseason was cornerback.

Pittsburgh lost two quality players in Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson this offseason. Apart from spending a seventh-round draft choice on Oklahoma’s Tre Norwood (who may even convert to safety in the NFL), the Steelers did next to nothing to replace them.

Though the team doesn’t have a ton of cap space, I almost expected at least one move to be made in the secondary at this point. Joe Haden is expected to get the start at left cornerback this year, like always, and a returning Cameron Sutton could get the start opposite of him.

While these two players had quality seasons in 2020, what does Pittsburgh have after them? The team is apparently high on former undrafted rookie, James Pierre, but it’s hard to trust him after just 27 career defensive snaps. Likewise, Justin Layne was a player I was high on in the 2019 NFL Draft but hasn’t given us any reason why he should be trusted moving forward.

Steelers have work to do when it comes to their CB depth

Knowing that this could very well be the last year of their Super Bowl window, you would think that the Steelers would be doing everything in their power to make sure there are no holes on their roster heading into their 2021 minicamp. However, the cornerback position should have fans worried.

It’s not that Justin Layne or James Pierre couldn’t turn out to be the players the Steelers are hoping for, but putting their faith in them before they ever prove themselves on the football field is risky business.

In today’s NFL, nickel formations used most often on defense – meaning that every team essentially has three starting cornerbacks. Mike Hilton was the nickel corner for the Steelers last year. Whether Pittsburgh decides to use Sutton outside or in the slot in nickel packages, they still need another cornerback that can step up to the plate.

Behind Pierre and Layne on the depth chart, it’s anyone’s guess. Rookie Tre Norwood said he has been asked to do a little bit of everything so far – including playing outside cornerback, nickel, and safety. Meanwhile, undrafted rookies Shakur Brown and Mark Gilbert could be fighting for one bone on the roster this year as well.

The fact that a pair of undrafted rookies could make the team in the secondary speaks more to the lack of depth at the cornerback position than anything else. The Steelers don’t have a ton of money to go around right now, but they would be wise to bring in a veteran cornerback they can count on in a rapidly closing Super Bowl window – even if that means making amends with Steven Nelson.

Related Story. Steelers 2021 schedule: 3 games fans must circle on their calendar. light

At the end of the day, it’s about winning Super Bowls, and I question whether or not the Steelers have the best possible depth they could at cornerback heading into minicamp. Let’s hope they know what they’re doing.