This 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers football team is going to look a lot different than in the past. Obviously, we know our offensive game plans are going to be subject to change now that it finally seems like we are going to have a solid running game again thanks to the selection of Najee Harris in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft. That in itself, plus the additions that we added to this offensive line through the draft is what has the fanbase more than excited to see what type of product they can produce each week.
Although it seems like our offense is coming together rather smoothly, there are still some questions left on the opposite side of the ball. While the Steelers are lucky enough to have a good amount of familiar faces back on the defensive unit, there are some positions, especially in the secondary, that have potential openings. Whether that be due to a loss in free agency or just a competition at a particular position. There will be some new faces trying to make their mark on this Steeler football team.
In my opinion, the position with the biggest need at this point would be upgrading our depth at the cornerback position. There is no doubt that Joe Haden is our number one, it has been that way since he got to Pittsburgh and it will most likely stay that way until he leaves. His counterpart from last season, Steven Nelson, requested his release from the Steelers a month before the draft, leaving a huge whole in our secondary for the coaching staff to fill. That cornerback number 2 position will presumably be filled by four year veteran, Cam Sutton as he looks to take that next step in his career and be a consistent starting cornerback in this league.
After Haden and Sutton on the depth chart, there are not too many household names at the cornerback position. They signed Shakur Brown and Mark Gilbert as undrafted free agents to help potentially upgrade their secondary. They are paired along with Justin Layne and James Pierre, both guys trying to make their mark on this football team, in hopes of getting to that starter level sooner rather than later in their careers. All of these guys mentioned above are young and inexperienced, but have the potential to be starters in this league, and it seems like the team seems to share that same opinion.
In a recent interview with Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, assistant defensive and secondary coach, Teryl Austin was quoted on just how confident he is in his young corners:
“I like our young guys,” “I like James Pierre, I like J-Layne. We have some young guys, a couple free agent guys, I’d like to see compete. Ability-wise, James and J-Layne have the ability to play in this league and be quality players. It just depends how fast and how far they progress in the next four or five weeks. I’m comfortable there.”
Austin ended the interview by adding :
“I’m also aware if we have a way to better our team and it happens to be an outside guy, I’m more than happy to have him, as well.”
There are some options in the secondary for the Steelers to still pursue in free agency, and the rumors have been circulating about potential signings. From the sounds of this interview, it can be safe to assume that, just like in typical fashion, the Steelers are going to roll into the upcoming year with their own homegrown talent, rather than spend money on a cornerback who ends up being another tw0-year potential gamble investment at the end of the day. It’s not the exciting move that everyone wants, but it’s always good to hear the coaching staff oozing confidence about their guys. Especially ones with so little experience.
How confident are you in our secondary this year if no new pieces are added? Sound off below!