Earlier today, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported that cornerback Justin King was placed on Injured Reserve (IR) by the Steelers.
The move itself is unfortunate for two reasons. First, the Steelers lost a veteran cornerback who could provide some competition for the other less-than experienced backups who will vie for roster spots. Second, King’s relegation to IR could force the Steelers to keep him on the books for up to $715,000 this fall according to Florio.
To offset the loss of King, Pittsburgh’s brass went out and signed rookie Nigel Malone.
I am not surprised that the Steelers added Malone, especially after the franchise sent such a large contingent of their personnel to Kansas State’s Pro Day back in March.
After a stint at San Francisco City College, Malone enjoyed two solid seasons with the Wildcats during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. The cornerback started 26 games during his time at Kansas State and illustrated a nose for the football when it was in the air. Overall, Malone snagged a total of 12 interceptions and recorded 19 passes defensed during his two year-career at the FBS-level.
From a frame perspective (5’10″ 184 lbs.) though, Malone is a bit smaller than the other cornerbacks on Pittsburgh’s roster. Size aside, if Nigel has a 38″ vertical leap which could be put to good use when he faces some taller pass-catchers. Nevertheless, the former Wildcat must prove that he is strong enough (only 8 bench press reps of 225 lbs.) to stick with larger receivers in potential one-on-one situations if he wishes to make an N.F.L. roster.
The cornerback depth behind the starters and William Gay are largely untested, and Malone at the very least will provide some more competition for guys like Josh Victorian, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Curtis Brown and rookie Terry Hawthorne over the coming months. Thus, I believe that Malone has a good shot of making the practice squad if he performs well during the preseason.
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