4 breakout candidates for the Pittsburgh Steelers during 2021 season

Alex Highsmith #56 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Alex Highsmith #56 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Lions quarterback David Blough (10) is tackled during the third quarter by Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback James Pierre (42). Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports /

Steelers CB James Pierre

This one might be a bit of a longshot with the team recently trading for cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, but I’ve been really impressed with what James Pierre has been able to do this offseason and I still think he could carve our a sizable role in 2021. Observing him at Steelers training camp, Pierre was arguably the best cornerback on the field. That really didn’t change during the 2021 preseason.

Though the former Florida Atlantic product gave up a few big catches, he was excellent for the most part. In the preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers, Pierre surrendered 3 completions for a grand total of just 3 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. This was despite playing upwards of 40 snaps.

James Pierre is not a terrific athlete, but his instincts and reaction time seem to be beyond his years. He also displayed some terrific ball skills this summer – picking off multiple passes from Ben Roethlisberger in training camp and breaking up passes in the preseason.

The fact that the Steelers essentially elected to ignore the cornerback position in the NFL Draft and free agency might mean they have a great deal of confidence in Pierre. He should see a massive uptick in snaps this year and he could even prove to be Pittsburgh’s most reliable cornerback if all goes well.