This is the third installment of the Steelers stat projections series. The first two focused on the offense and defensive front seven, so this edition will focus on the defensive secondary.
Projections: 53 Tackles, 4 Interceptions, 17 Passes Defensed
With Ike Taylor having taken the stairway to cornerback hell this past season, Cortez Allen will be forced into the number one cornerback duties. For the past few seasons Allen has been expected to take a big jump forward but he hasn’t been able to live up to expectations. Quarterbacks will be targeting him this season when he is covering the other team’s top option, which means he could see a big jump in his interception and passes defensed categories.
Projections: 59 Tackles, 10 Passes Defensed
It’s no secret that Taylor isn’t the cornerback that he once was, but he is the Steelers’ best option as the second cornerback. He has never had good hands and that in combination with his declining coverage skills should contribute to a goose egg in the INT category this year. I do expect him to keep a fairly high number of tackles, however, due to the fact that he will have to bring down all of the receivers who beat him.
Projections: 51 Tackles, 1 Interception, 9 Passes Defensed
With the passing game becoming ever more prevalent in the NFL, the slot cornerback also becomes increasingly important. While Gay may not be the flashiest of the slot corners, he gets the job done. He is arguably the second best corner on the roster, but in the past when he has been forced to play on the perimeter he has struggled. I expect him to perform much better in the slot than Taylor will on the perimeter.
Projections: 28 Tackles, 4 Passes Defensed
With no other options, Richardson is almost definitely going to be the fourth option at cornerback this season. Richardson undoubtedly has many tools that will allow him to have success in the future if he can use and develop them right, but he isn’t ready for immediate success.
Projections: 6 Tackles
There should be a position battle between Green and Brice McCain for the fifth corner spot, but don’t expect much production from whoever wins the spot. Green has the edge in my eyes due to his youth.
Projections: 74 Tackles, 1.5 Sacks, 3 FF, 2 FR, 3 Interceptions, 10 Passes Defensed
Despite the fact that he is another year older this year I fully expect Polamalu to be among the best in the league again. Due to the drafting of Ryan Shazier a week and a half ago, Polamalu will not have to play linebacker in nickel packages anymore. This should allow him to return to his previous outstanding form despite his “old” age.
Projections: 77 Tackles, 3 Sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 2 Interceptions, 8 Passes Defensed
For the first time in his career Mitchell will come into a season as the undisputed starter. This in combination with a full offseason working with the Steelers’ wonderful defensive coaching staff should do wonders for his game. The biggest flaws in his game are all stemming from his slight lack of discipline so his experience and reps with the first team in training camp all summer should work magic.
Projections: 39 Tackles, 1 Sack, 2 Passes Defensed
I thought Thomas would have been fully capable of stepping into a starting role this season had he been asked to, but alas he was not. That will only make him a better player in the long run, however. Thomas still won’t get an extended amount of playing time this season, but he will do the most with what he’s given.
Projections: 27 Tackles, 1 Pass Defensed
The maturation of Shamarko Thomas in combination with he himself getting older should diminish Allen’s role in the 2014-2015 season. He should still see the field plenty as a backup and role player, but he won’t have nearly as big a role as he has had in the past.
Projections: 16 Tackles, 1 Pass Defensed
I really, really like Robert Golden but he is firmly implanted as the Steelers’ last option at safety on the roster. He may develop into a very good role player or even a starter in the future, but for now don’t expect too much production from him.