Steelers have a major problem at cornerback that nobody is talking about

Steelers have leadership, production, and ball skills at CB... but something big is missing.

Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

Following NFL roster cuts, Omar Khan proved that he was not done adding talent to the Pittsburgh Steelers ahead of the 2023 season. Almost immediately after comprising their initial 53-man roster, Khan signed veteran cornerback, Desmond King.

King was a former All-Pro return man and defensive back with the Chargers early in his NFL career. He spent the past two seasons on the Houston Texans where he carved out a significant role as a full-time starter -- earning over 1,800 defensive snaps to go with 5 interceptions since the start of 2021, via Pro Football Reference.

This is the one roster move that Steelers fans have been waiting for. Since very early in the 2023 offseason, it was easy to see that Pittsburgh had a glaring hole at slot cornerback. While King has plenty of experience playing on the boundaries, he also has covered the slot a ton in his career -- logging 334 snaps from the slot last year alone.

Now many fans feel like their secondary is complete. There's no doubt that King offers much more stability to the cornerback position and gives them a stable option in subpackages. However, there's one potentially major problem with the cornerbacks that nobody is talking about right now: a lack of speed.

Steelers might have the slowest CB room in the NFL

Speed isn't everything. But if there's one position where great speed is typically a requirement, it's cornerback. Though teams can sometimes get away with deploying one slow cornerback on defense, what happens when you have a trio of CBs lacking top-end speed?

This could be the case for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2022 with Patrick Peterson, Levi Wallace, and Desmond King.

Entering the NFL in 2018, Wallace clocked in a cringe-worthy 4.63 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. A year earlier, King elected not to run at the Combine, but managed just a 4.60 at his Iowa Pro Day, per Relative Athletic Score. Many scouts add .06 seconds to Pro Day times to get a more accurate assessment of what a player would have run in Indianapolis at the Combine.

Patrick Peterson was of a very rare breed entering the league. The former LSU star ran a 4.31 coming into the NFL, but this was way back in 2011. Over the past couple of years, it's been clear to see that Peterson doesn't have that top gear he used to possess. This is probably why advanced data from Pro Football Focus suggested that he was one of the worst cornerbacks in the league in man coverage last year.

The collection of these three cornerbacks might give Pittsburgh the slowest trio of CBs in the NFL. This suggests that if the Steelers don't get pressure in a hurry, any of the three are subject to getting toasted. Knowing this, Pittsburgh could be required to play much more zone coverage than they did last year.


While these players aren't suddenly going to get faster or more explosive, getting rookie CB Joey Porter Jr. on the field early and often could help. If Porter is ready to contribute, he would prove to be their most athletic cornerback by a mile at this point, and his sticky coverage could help decrease the number of holes in the secondary.

I'm not trying to get down on this Steelers CB unit in 2023. I still think that it's going to be a step up from the one we saw in 2022. However, I would caution against getting expectations too high. This might be the slowest cornerback room in the league this year, and we need to hope that their lack of speed doesn't become the Achilles heel of this defense.

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