The Steelers have seen a lot of cornerbacks come and go over the years, but Ike has held down the top of the depth chart for years, and regularly locked down some of the top receivers in the game.
Ike’s stone hands are what have kept him out of conversations about the best CB’s in the game, and I think the talk about his decline has even been slightly overblown.
His two worst games this year came against Calvin Johnson and Josh Gordon. Show me a CB who didn’t struggle to cover those two guys this year.
All of that being said… Ike’s contract hit in 2014 along with his struggles (overblown or not) could likely mean he’s seen his last game in the black and gold.
If the Steelers do move on from Ike, they’re dangerously thin at CB. The cornerback position is one where they say you need at least three good ones.
For all the heat that William Gay gets, I think he’s a serviceable #2, and an above average slot corner. However, after Cortez Allen and Gay, the Steelers have virtually nothing.
At one time I thought that the Steelers just don’t value the position enough to grab a corner in round 1, so it wouldn’t happen in this draft either.
The last CB drafted in round 1 was Chad Scott in 1997, before Kevin Colbert’s time here and while Dick Lebeau was in Cincinnati.
A few things have changed my thinking though.
First of all, it’s just a huge need. I’m not suggesting they’ll reach for a corner, but they have to get a guy that has some chance of making an impact quickly… I would say they definitely take one in the 2nd round if they pass in the first.
Second, the Steelers have shown that they’ll go against the grain if they need to. Prior to last season the Steelers always took later round rush linebackers and coached them up. Last season they showed they will change in philosophy if the situation calls for it.
Finally, I remembered Mike Tomlin’s first season as head coach. Now, this very well could have been smokescreens… but the rumor was that Mike Tomlin loved cornerback Darelle Revis in the 2007 draft, when the Steelers also held the #15 pick.
The New York Jets made a deal with the Panthers to move to the 14th spot to select Revis. So the Jets obviously felt that the Steelers were going to take him.
All those factors just tell me that corner is a possibility on draft day; not necessarily that it will be the pick.
Michigan State’s Darquenze Dennard has been compared to Revis, and has regularly been mocked to the Steelers in the early mock drafts.
I plan to watch more tape, but right now I prefer Oklahoma St. cover man, Justin Gilbert to Dennard.
To me Dennard has the superior technique, and is more of a “shut down” physical man-to-man corner. He’s probably the safer pick and has a better chance of a quick impact.
However, Gilbert has more upside in my opinion. He’s bigger, faster, and more athletic. He also seems to have more experience playing off his man (which the Steelers do often), whereas Dennard likes to beat you up at the line.
If the Steelers decide to wait until round two, there’s talent there as well. Bradley Roby is a guy that was talked about as a potential top 10 pick a year ago, but was burnt often this season. It seems we pick an OSU product just about every year too.
Loucheiz Purifoy out of Florida is inconsistent but has some explosive athleticism, and plays with an attitude reminiscent of Ike “Swaggin” Taylor. He could also help as a return man.
Obviously the team can’t get too locked into one position with so many holes, but I’d expect you’ll see a CB in one of the first two rounds in May.