Steelers CB James Pierre listed as surprise player you should know from minicamps

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 /

James Pierre has been drawing a lot of buzz recently. Here’s why ESPN lists the Steelers cornerback as a surprise player to know following minicamps. 

It’s hard to have a lot of deep takeaway from NFL minicamps. The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up their mandatory minicamp last week, and there were certain players who drew an unusual amount of buzz. Though the big names like Ben Roethlisberger and Najee Harris are often the types of players highlighted due to their popularity, there was a much lesser-known player who made his presence felt.

Cornerback James Pierre is a player that some fans started to notice late in the season last year. The former undrafted rookie not only impressed enough to stick on the roster in his first NFL season, but he was earning playing time by the end of 2020.

During minicamp, the young cornerback was particularly impressive. Mark Kaboly of The Athletic notes that Pierre picked off Ben Roethlisberger twice during team practice last week. Recently, ESPN wrote a collaborative article detailing the surprise player at minicamp from all 32 NFL teams. James Pierre was chosen for the Steelers. Here’s what ESPN’s Brooke Pryor had to say:

"The offseason departures of Mike Hilton and Steve Nelson created a few open jobs in the secondary, and Pierre is fighting hard for one. He is jockeying for time on the field — likely on the outside — and doing it with standout plays in mandatory minicamp. The second-year undrafted free agent out of Florida Atlantic picked Ben Roethlisberger off twice in Wednesday’s practice, including one interception in the end zone during a two-minute drill. Pierre played just 27 defensive snaps last season but was a key special-teamer with 227 snaps. The Steelers have mined undrafted free-agent gems in the past with guys like Hilton, and Pierre’s offseason workouts show he’s a solid candidate to be the next. — Brooke Pryor"

Pryor is hardly the first Pittsburgh media personnel to praise Pierre this offseason. Though he has very limited experience with the team, there is a lot of attention turning his way. The question is: can James Pierre be the cornerback everyone is expecting him to be?

Steelers fans should be careful about expecting too much from James Pierre

Despite his recent interceptions on Ben Roethlisberger and the fact that apparently leapfrogged Justin Layne on the depth chart late in the 2020 season, I would hamper expectations for James Pierre for the time being. Like everyone else, I would love for Pierre to be the next great undrafted free agent signing, but it’s unfair of us to expect so much from the gate.

While he may have impressed during OTAs and minicamp this year, it’s important to remember that the young cornerback has just 27 career defensive snaps under his belt, according to Pro Football Reference (35 counting the playoffs). This is hardly enough to make a fair assessment of him one way or the other.

The real test will come during training camp this year. Pierre won’t be handed the job as the team’s third cornerback, and there are other young players who will be nipping at his heels. Players like Justin Layne, Shakur Brown, and Mark Gilbert will all be fighting to prove why they could be the next cornerback to step up for this team, and some of them have a much more impressive athletic skill set than Pierre possesses.

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As of now, I’m predicting James Pierre to earn the third cornerback job with the Steelers in 2021 (what that looks like exactly, we will have to wait and see). However, he still has to earn it during training camp this year. Pierre seems to be trending in the right direction as he continues to earn more recognition, but he needs to keep up this pace to be the player Pittsburgh wants him to be this year.