The Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive secondary was a massive part of the overall unit’s success in 2019. We’ll discuss the safeties in our next preview, for this one, we’ll focus on the cornerbacks. Who is back and and who is new? Let’s take a look.
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By The Numbers
2019 Opponent Passing Yards: 3,113 (3rd)
2019 Opponent Passing Yards Per Attempt: 6.7 (T-6th)
2019 Pass Rush: 54 sacks (1st) (*3rd year in a row leading the league)
2019 Opponent Rushing Yards: 1,753 (14th)
2018 Opponent Rushing Yards Per Carry: 3.8 (3rd)
2019 Rushing yards Allowed per Game: 109.6 (14th)
Joe Haden (11 seasons)
They say location is everything and for Joe Haden it sure has been. The former Brown has thoroughly enjoyed his time in Pittsburgh and his overall play has been evidence of this. He had five picks and 20 passes defensed. With the unexpectedly high level play of Steven Nelson, Haden also took his game up a notch and despite being in his 30’s now, there’s no reason to think he slides back now.
Mike Hilton (4 seasons)
The former Ole Miss standout has been excellent as the Steelers’ primary slot cornerback. His strength is his ability to blitz and play the run but he’s not too bad in coverage either. He picked up one and a half sacks with 65 tackles and 11 passes defensed. He should be in line to be the Steelers main guy in the slot in 2020.
Steven Nelson (6 seasons)
Nelson came over from the Chiefs on a free agent deal that to be honest, we thought was a bit too much. That said, we have no problem admitting when we’re wrong and that’s what I’m doing here. Nelson had a tremendous season in 2019 with one interception and eight passes defensed. He was also very good against the run with over 60 tackles. Like Haden, Nelson seems to have found a home in the Steel City.
Cameron Sutton (4 seasons)
When Sutton was drafted out of Tennessee, we weren’t all that high on him because he didn’t tackle well and his coverage skills were suspect. Despite knowing he was battling injuries in college we still didn’t think he would transfer well to the pro game. He has made himself into a very nice reserve and spot starter who has flexibility to play outside or in the slot.
Justin Layne – The former Spartan had a tough transition to the NFL last season and is currently on the Reserve/Covid-19 list. This is a big season ahead for the 2019 third round draft pick.
Breon Borders, Alexander Myres, Trajan Bandy, James Pierre
Haden and Nelson will provide the anchors on each boundary. Hilton will again be solid in the slot and Sutton will move where needed. As of right now, we see Layne as the fifth cornerback and if there is a sixth that’s a complete toss up right now. We’re leaning towards them keeping just five CBs because the safety position lacks depth and they may need five there as well.
Roster: Haden, Nelson, Hilton, Sutton, Layne