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A Look Into the Cornerbacks Going Into 2021

Steeler Nation

Staff member
These next few weeks of the 2021 off-season for the Pittsburgh Steelers should be interesting, to say the least. Now, March 17 is the date that players can officially put a pen to paper and sign with an NFL team of their choice for the new year. That being said, although not technically “official”, we can also prepare ourselves to see reports on a good amount of free agents making verbal commitments to teams, welcoming ourselves to the unofficial start of NFL Free Agency.

I can think of at least three positions that the Steelers will have to make some tough calls on. For example, JuJu Smith-Schuster, although no longer under contract, has expressed interest in coming back to the team and the decision on whether or not he returns seems to be left in the Steelers hands. What the Steelers plan to do with OLB Bud Dupree is still up in the air, and while it does seem like the front office wants to make him a Steeler for as long as possible, the likelihood of that seems unlikely due to the amount of money Dupree might be going after. A position that should be held in high regard, in my mind, is the cornerbacks and which direction we will go as far as two of our top four corners being scheduled to enter this upcoming free agent market. Cam Sutton and Mike Hilton both have played key parts in our secondary for the last two seasons, and we would hate to see either of these players be on new teams next season.

The cornerback position is one that has a big question mark next to it going into the new year. Not because of a lack of talent or anything of that nature, just simply based on who will be suiting up on Sundays at this position. Last season, Steven Nelson, Joe Haden, Sutton and Hilton were the four guys used most at the cornerback position and seemed to carry most of the load throughout the year. With Haden and Nelson both locked up on contract for the 2021 season, I think it’s safe to say both of these cornerstones will be back for another run at a Lombardi Trophy. The other two players mentioned (Sutton & Hilton) however, are no longer contractually tied to Pittsburgh as of now, and the team’s plans revolving both players have not been yet announced.

Hilton has been one of, if not, the best slot cornerback in the NFL. Hilton has done nothing but prove his worth on this defense since he garnered enough respect to gather playing time. While playing in 12 of the 16 games, he himself is coming off one of his best seasons in the black and gold stats wise last season. He had a career high in interceptions with 3 and did damage in the pass rush as well, ending the year with 3 solo sacks. This is an area he does better than most CBs. While injured, in his absence, Sutton played extremely well, seemingly picking up the slack. His tackling and coverage abilities make it hard for him not to see the field.

Pittsburgh can realistically bank on only bringing one of these two talents back. With most expecting that to be Hilton, the answer to that is still up in the air as we go into the start of this process. Whether or not both, or one of them are signed, Pittsburgh has a couple of guys on the roster already that might be getting the opportunity to showcase their talents if one of these spots are left open.

Justin Layne and James Pierre are two names that many might not be aware of but could have significant contributions to the team in the future. Layne, drafted in the 3rd round in 2019, was looked at as a significant steal. Many experts gave credit to the Steelers for pulling the trigger on the 6’2 former college WR for drafting him earlier than expected, due in part to the upside that he could potentially bring. He has the size and speed to keep up with most wideouts in the league, however, it just seems like the Steelers are giving him some much needed time to learn the position, which could be a positive in the long run.


Pierre on the other hand is somewhat of a different story. He was an undrafted free agent during the 2020 off-season where he found his way onto our beloved Steelers. When signed, I don’t think there was much expectation of Pierre making the team. As we know, the likelihood of an undrafted free agent being placed on the 53-man roster is slim to none, but that just makes it 10x better when guys like this end up making the team. Although not being on the field much other than special teams, he impressed while between the lines, something that goes a long way as far as leading to playing time in the NFL and could lead to playing time on the defensive side sooner than later.

Obviously, the best case scenario is we sign both Hilton and Sutton back to deals bringing them back to the ‘Burgh. The only way I see them bringing Sutton back is if they can’t get a deal done with Hilton, therefore they would sign Sutton to replace him as the slot back. I personally believe they will prioritize bringing Hilton back over most, but we have to prepare for both possible outcomes.

Who would you rather see suit up at corner for the Steelers in 2021? Comment below.


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Well-known member
personally I think they will priorize Sutton over Hilton, younger, cheaper, better in coverage and a student of the game according to reports.