The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Joey Porter Jr. with the 32nd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and already, the second-generation NFL player is looking like a star in the making. Porter was forced to exercise patience early in his rookie season as he took a backseat to veterans, but soon enough, it was his time to shine.
Though Porter was one of the league leaders in penalties per game among defensive backs, his aggressive play style paid off far more often than not. By the end of the season, he easily proved himself as the best cover corner on the Steelers roster, and he was the only one Pittsburgh trusted to follow the opposing team's best receiver around the field.
While Porter looks like a star in the making, the Pittsburgh Steelers have serious issues that must be addressed at the cornerback position during the 2024 offseason. Levi Wallace and Chandon Sullivan are both free agents and neither played well enough to warrant another contract with the team.
Meanwhile, Patrick Peterson's age has quickly caught up with him, and he's not worth the lofty price tag he's set to have for the 2024 season. Even cornerback James Pierre -- who is strictly a special teams player at this point -- has an expiring contract and could depart in free agency.
This could leave Porter as the only CB on Pittsburgh's roster who has any sort of respectable game experience. For this reason, the Steelers should be firmly in the market to bid on one of the top cornerbacks set to hit free agency. There's one who would be a particularly great fit.
Steelers must attempt to sign CB L'Jarius Sneed in free agency
Everyone is going to be infatuated with Jaylon Johnson during free agency (and rightfully so). Johnson was spectacular in 2023 -- nabbing 4 interceptions and a defensive touchdown. His outstanding performance this past season helped him earn the highest overall grade among all NFL cornerbacks, via Pro Football Focus.
However, there's another cornerback set to hit the market who might be an even better fit in Pittsburgh. L'Jarius Sneed is coming off his second straight spectacular season with the Kansas City Chiefs. The emerging star didn't allow a single touchdown during the 2023 regular season as he put the clamps on just about every receiver he played against.
According to Pro Football Reference, Sneed was targeted 100 times last season but only allowed 478 yards while earning 2 interceptions. This equated to just 4.8 yards per target surrendered to go with an impressive 56.2 passer rating when targetted in 2023.
What makes Sneed so appealing is his physical play style that allows him to stay in the hip pocket of the man he is covering. Listed at 6'1'' and 192 pounds, Sneed uses his frame to redirect receivers at the line of scrimmage, and it certainly doesn't hurt that he possesses 4.37 speed to make up ground down the field.
In many ways, Sneed is like a more polished Joey Porter Jr. But like Porter, the veteran CB can get overly grabby -- leading to penalties. Sneed finished the season as second in the NFL for total penalties called against him with 17 (though 6 were declined).
Steelers fans would have to get used to excess laundry being thrown on the field, but they would gladly take the trade-off if it means adding one of the league's best lockdown cornerbacks to pair with Joey Porter Jr. long-term.
Signing L'Jarius Sneed in free agency won't come cheap. He's projected to get north of $16 million per season. But if the Pittsburgh Steelers are willing to fork up for a star player, it could help the defense tremendously and allow them to save their first-round pick to address the offense in 2024.