Oct 28, 2012; Pittsburgh , PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor (24) reacts after breaking up a pass against the Washington Redskins during the second half of the game at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 27-12. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers Scary Cornerback Situation

A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston, Andre Johnson, and possibly Josh Gordon are just a few of the wide receivers the Steelers defense will be facing this year.  Kind of a scary thought once you take a look at the Steelers cornerbacks.  Here are the nine corners currently on the roster.  Ike Taylor, William Gay, Cortez Allen, Shaquille Richardson, Antwon Blake, Brian McCain, Isaiah Green, Deion Belue, and Devin Smith.  I don’t know about you but thinking about the second list of names attempting to cover the first list is terrifying.

The Steelers waited until the fifth round to draft Shaquille Richardson out of Arizona.  That could be seen as a vote of confidence from the front office, that they trust the corners on the roster.  Personally, I think it was a bad decision to not add more talent to that position.  Last season the Steelers only had ten interceptions.  Only three of those picks were made by a corner, two by Cortez Allen.  Ike Taylor is 34 years old now and is not a number one lockdown corner anymore.  Based on who else is on the roster though, he might be.  William Gay is 29 and an alright number two or three corner.  He is not a number one.  It seems like this is the third straight year that we have been expecting more from Cortez, so we shall see how he plays this year.  But I don’t expect him to shut down the likes of A.J. Green on a consistent basis.

Assuming those are the top three guys and Shaq makes the roster, the Steelers are left with Antwon Blake, Brian McCain, Isaiah Green, Deion Belue, and Devin Smith.  You’d have to assume three of those guys are going to get cut.  I hope Antwon Blake makes the roster, for no other reason than he appears to have all the confidence in the world.  The third year undrafted corner out of UTEP wants to become an All-Pro one day.  Having too much confidence as a corner might be the best thing for young corner, just look at Richard Sherman.  However, with that being said about Blake, I’m not expecting him to be a stud this year.

Therefore, I am getting close to panic mode about the upcoming season.  After writing this all I can think of is Johnny Manziel throwing the ball to whoever, probably not Josh Gordon, all over the place against the Steelers on opening day at Heinz Field for a victory.  Sending ESPN into a Tim Tebow-esque frenzy that Johnny Football is the future of quarterbacking in the NFL.   Meanwhile the Steelers are 0-1 headed to Baltimore for a Thursday Night game.  Nightmare situation.

The cornerback position is by far the Steelers weakest position group on defense.  As far as solutions go, it might be up to the coaching to help the corners.  Dick LeBeau should use the speedy linebackers to help in pass coverage and hopefully Mike Mitchell fills in seamlessly for Ryan Clark at safety.  The Steelers are also going to need Carnell Lake to coach these guys up and get the most out of their potential or else it could be a long year watching the Steelers defense struggle to get off the field.

What do you think Steelers Nation?  Am I panicking way too early?  Or are my fears warranted?

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  • Scott

    I agree-the cornerback position is lacking to say the least. Why they didn’t address it earlier in the draft is a mystery to me.

  • PJ_CA

    I’ve been saying the same thing since before the draft – our secondary sucks, let’s be honest. When Shazier, who is a good player, got selected – I was MAD. Why the Steelers pick ANOTHER LB in the 1st round with quality CBs on the board is beyond me. The Steelers saw Denard, Verrett, and Roby on the board and said: “yup, we need an ILB” – really? No matter what Shazzier does, he better be good in coverage and get some takeaways, or he’s going to draw Limas Sweed comparisons. The Steelers need takeaways, most teams get them from their secondary.

    • ApexSteel

      Two reasons. They didn’t like the corners that were there and pass defense wasn’t our weakness last year. Simple.

      • PJ_CA

        Actually that is NOT what they said the day of the draft. What they said was that they were comfortable with what they had, really? Seriously? Yes, we were 9th in passing D last year. However, there were a pathetic 10 INTs, and ONLY 3 came from CBs – does that breed comfort? So, as Steelers fans, are we happy with McCain, Gay, Blake, etc? And we’re comfortable “hoping” Cortez has the break out year we’ve been waiting for 3 years to see?

        • ApexSteel

          Yeah they must have been so enamored with the CB prospects if they passed on them, right? A 21st ranked run defense and that causes you to bring your play making safety up next to a MLB who can’t cover(or in Garvin’s case run defend) will hinder your play making ability. Now when you go grab a complete MLB you can move that play making safety back to his natural position and make more plays (especially if you add a faster playmaking free safety to boot).

          The mission was to get better in the secondary. They did a good job.

          • Anthony Hargraves

            Apex man its nice to see somebody else under stand that CD was not that big of a need for this coming season. its not rocket science. Our run defense was 21st! that’s not Steeler Football. Stopping the run is always first. If Lake wanted Shaq I trust that he can make him a good player. Lets see how they look this year when the front 7 put more pressure on the QB.

        • SDAZT_STEEL

          Lake alluded to his comfort w/likes of Blake, McCain and the three starters during the offseason. While the team was targeting Gilbert at 15 and likely Fuller, their plans obviously changed due to the fact that both were off the board.

          Granted, I don’t think Shaquille Richardson is any sort of answer, and Taylor, Allen and Gay will not be mistaken for any sort of Top 10 trio. However, the way Pittsburgh’s defensive scheme is structured, the CBs play a smaller part in it than the front-seven do. Tasked with more zone & off-man coverage, their job is to keep the plays in front of them and take advantage of opposing QBs mistakes when they go to the air.

          Is it perfect? No, especially when teams dink and dunk them to death or if they fail to stick against opposing receivers when they are forced into press-man. But it is what it is, and the FO & coaching staff believe that they have adequate personnel to do what is asked of them at the position.

          Can the Steelers stand to have some better long-term answers at CB? Absolutely. Did they pass on some solid cornerback prospects, particularly good scheme fits, between rounds 1-4? Damn skippy. Yet it’s not like they didn’t address the multitude of other needs which existed (still exist) on the roster with those selections before Richardson (i’d have rather seen a TE before a CB myself).

          Remember, this is a 16-16 team over the last two seasons. If cornerback was their sole issue, it would have been addressed much earlier. And who knows, maybe someone will surprise out of the group of question marks.

          • PJ_CA

            Agreed, however, they DID address the other issues on the D in the draft – DE Tuitt, DT – McCullers. What they didn’t do, in my opinion, was address the other 2 glaring needs on the team: WR and CB – Bryant fell to the 4th Rd for a reason, likewise Robinson. I think Fuller was their #1 target, but that went away after the Bears took him @14, they knew Gilbert wasn’t going to fall to 15, nobody could be that naive. Yes, DE and DT were bigger needs, and they got good value with Tuitt and McCullers, but CB should have been on the list.
            I also agree they get dinked and dunked to death, but they haven’t gotten the talent to play more press man (does anyone really want to see Ike playing press coverage?)

  • daddeeekip

    Let’s be real the Steelers secondary has never been great but what has made them good is the pressure the front 7 has provided. The Steelers went back to this philosophy during the draft by getting younger and faster with the picks of Shazier and Tuitt. The Steelers could have Seattle’s LOB for a secondary but by putting no pressure on the QB it would make even them look average. I’m not saying a great talent doesn’t make a secondary better but wait for a second do you really think a rookie CB is going to be Sherman or Revis or any other CB that you think is good. First he has to have the defensive scheme down to even play with any type of confidence in his abilities and how many young CBs before they developed weren’t abused their rookie year. Yes we need upgrades in CBs no doubt but if you get pressure on the QB, as you saw against the great Peyton Manning in the SB, you can make any secondary better than what it is. Even the Steelers secondary can hold potent WRs for 3 -4 seconds and no WR can run past any CB that fast. And even if he does a QB running for his life won’t find open receivers dodging tackles or shaking off defenders. The Steelers got back to basics and want to get back to pressure and sacks which leads to turnovers and more opportunities for the offense. More opportunities for the offense dictates more points, more points dictates what the offenses play calling is. So before we decide the sky is falling let’s hope our new look DL can become cohesive and that Jones and Worilds can become beasts at rushing the passer. IF the front 7 comes together we won’t be worried about our secondary as much. Just need Cortex Allen to step and the Steelers resign him and hope the other young CBs can grow to be competitive as become a big part of the defensive scheme.

    • PJ_CA

      While I agree, the Steelers have never had a good secondary without a good front 7. That said, Seattle proved last year that an elite secondary can mask an average to slightly above average front 7 – the same way an elite front 7 can mask a secondary that isn’t he best (no team can afford to have both anymore). My point was that in nearly ignoring the secondary at all in the draft (with a deep CB draft at that) means that we will be spending more than one pick next year on secondary players that may not be on par with the CBs available this year. Next year Ike will not be there anymore, Troy will be very near the end of the road as well, William Gay will never be a #1, and Cortez needs to make a BIG leap to be considered a #1 going into next year. So are we really trusting our future to Blake, McCain, Thomas, and the rest?

  • Carl Eagan

    It’s amazing that people say a rookie OLB moved inside is going to improve the defense but a rookie CB who didn’t change positions won’t. Tomlin and Colbert drafted a 6′ tall CB but are betting the future on a couple of 5’9″ CB’s who don’t have a chance against the receiver’s 6′ or better. Should really expect anything different from our great leaders.

    • ApexSteel

      You must not have watched any film whatsoever on him. He didn’t switch positions he was a mlb primarily . Not just middle either, he played outside and at d-end (Ohio State runs a 4-3) on some plays because he has excellent pass rushing ability. We expect him to make an impact, because Dick LeBeau (an Ohio State Alum) helped them with their scheme and terminology which allowed Shazier to pick up the defense faster when he got to pittsburgh.

      Now no one’s counting on Richardson because he was a 5th round pick and not too many 5th round corners (short of Richard Sherman) came out their first year and balled out. This is where your argument get stupid because it’s like you assume that size=talent. What you fail to realize is that the 5’9 corner (2 inches shorter than revis. Not that much) has 4.3 speed, 30 inch arms(2 inches shorter than both Sherman and Peterson) and a 39 inch vertical(1 inch higher than all of them). So technically, if need be, he can out jump all of them. Smaller body doesn’t equal smaller measurables

  • Mark Lake

    I’m not worried at all about this CB situation …

    1. They all have good speed … speed allows for matchups!
    2. Ike Taylor is NOT finished yet … his role has changed but he still matches up well with WR2′s
    3. Cortez Allen was dinged last season and is better than his 2013 season would suggest
    4. Willie Gay is a top-tier Nickle/Dime CB
    5. Mike Mitchell should be better at deep route support than was Ryan Clark, a BIG plus for helping Cortez cover the WR1′s mentioned in this article
    6. The coverage speed of the ILB’s should really help intermediate zone coverages, allowing the Safeties a bit more range in their assignments
    7. As a unit 2013 pass coverage was not bad other than the big plays they allowed. That should likely get corrected this year