View Full Version : What Can the Steelers Expect From a Rookie CB in 2011?

04-19-2011, 07:19 PM
What Can the Steelers Expect From a Rookie CB in 2011?
Posted on April 19, 2011 by adam

I think we all agree on this: the Steelers could use a young cornerback whether free agent Ike Taylor is a member of the team in 2011 or not. If any of these mock drafts are accurate, and if a large portion of the fan base has its way next Thursday night, the Steelersí top pick will, in fact, be a cornerback. But how would it impact the Steelers defense in 2011?

On Monday, Pro Football Talkís Monday Gregg Rosenthal wrote about Houstonís reported love of LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and how they might move up in the draft (as they would no doubt need to do) to pick him. In that post Rosenthal wrote this about Houston cornerback Kareem Jackson: ďThe Texans were desperate for a starting cornerback this year, to the point everyone fully expected them to take their top-ranked with their first pick, and thatís exactly what they did. They drafted Kareem Jackson, he started all season, and few cornerbacks in the NFL played worse last season.Ē

That last sentence isnít an exaggeration. He was bad. Really bad. According to Football Outsidersí game-charting data, no cornerback gave up more yards per pass or more yards after catch in 2010 than Jackson, and itís not like this was some guy Houston picked up off the scrap heap; He was the 20th overall pick in the draft and the second cornerback taken (Cleveland selected Joe Haden with the No. 7 overall pick).

This doesnít mean that Jackson is already a bust and will never pan out. More likely, it shows the struggles a rookie cornerback will go through during his first real taste of NFL action. Thereís a large learning curve for the position and plenty of growing pains that come with the territory. Of the five cornerbacks taken in the first round in 2010, four of them (Jackson, Haden, Kyle Wilson and Patrick Robinson) either had trouble getting on the field or struggled once they did, while New Englandís Devin McCourty was able to make an immediate impact. McCourty, however, seems to be the anomaly. Rookies donít typically step right into that position and finish second in the league in interceptions. And even with McCourtyís gaudy pick totals, the Patriots were still 23rd and 11th against No. 1 and 2 receivers, according to FO.

I do wonder, when it comes to the Steelers, if there is a ďgrass is greenerĒ mentality regarding Bryant McFadden, who doesnít seem to have many friends in the stands when it comes to his play on the field. Iíll say this: If you asked me right now which player would be more productive for the Steelers in 2011, McFadden, or a hypothetical mystery corner they selected with the No. 31 pick, my answer, on April 19, 2010, would be McFadden for two reasons: 1) The aforementioned struggles of rookie cornerbacks (more on that in a second) and 2) I still donít think McFadden was as bad as his reputation in 2010.

According to FO the Steelers were a top-five team against No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers in 2010, but dropped to 18th against ďother receiversĒ (Nos. 3-5), which suggests the bigger problem was still William Gay (and I thought he was better last year). You may remember him as the player repeatedly targeted in the Super Bowl.

(EDIT: As pointed out by Dr. Obvious in the comments, Gayís 2010 season may have been better than Iíve given him credit for here, via FOís individual metrics.)

I went back and looked at every cornerback taken in the first round between 2000 and 2010, and using Pro Football Referenceís Approximate Value metric, found that the average first-round corner posted an AV of 3.7 as a rookie. By comparison, McFadden in 2010 came in with a 9, while Gay registered a 3.

The other factor involved here is how the Steelers typically work players into the lineup in what is by most accounts a complex defense that takes quite a bit of time to master. Since 2000 the Steelers have selected just four defensive players in the first round: Casey Hampton, Troy Polamalu, Lawrence Timmons and Ziggy Hood. The only player that played significantly as a rookie and made a positive impact was Hampton. Polamalu and Timmons looked lost at times as rookies, and it took Hood midway through his second season to really start to come on strong (and he certainly did).

This isnít to say I donít want the Steelers to take a cornerback (though, as Iíve said many times, I donít want to see them take one just to take one; make sure itís a good one) or that it would be a bad thing if said corner didnít come in and instantly start as a rookie. As Timmons, Polamalu, Hood and even Rashard Mendenhall on the offensive side of the ball have shown a draft pick doesnít need to dominate as a rookie to have a productive career. Itís more a cautionary tale to not expect too much from a rookie at a position where rookies donít always perform well.

If anything, a rookie would likely be used in a role similar to the one McFadden was used in during the 2005 season when he was the No. 3 guy playing behind Taylor and Deshea Townsend.

04-20-2011, 04:38 AM
i agree. i have said many times that we will not take a corner in round 1. if we cant get Pouncey we will take the BPA which will probably be a defensive lineman or a LB

04-20-2011, 11:41 PM
i agree. i have said many times that we will not take a corner in round 1. if we cant get Pouncey we will take the BPA which will probably be a defensive lineman or a LB

We are drafting a cornerback and the BPA will probably be a cornerback. Aaron Williams is most likely our pick. But if Cameron Heyward were to fall we could take him as well. Good options in the 2nd could be G Marcus Cannon, CB Ras-I Dowling, or LT Kenrick Ellis.

04-21-2011, 05:35 PM
Barring a major surprise player falling, which actually will likely happen, the BPA will be a CB. Either Aaron Williams or Brandon Harris are both better than any OT, OG, or DL that is expected to be around at 31.

I don't expect them to come in right away and be Revis either. Give me somebody that can come in and make a difference as a nickel or dime back immediately and eventually have the potential to be a great starter later on down the line. I'm fine with that. A middle round CB talent is not going to do that, at best they will work their way into said nickel role after a few seasons and MAYBE be a starter REALLY far down the line, they'll be several seasons behind in their progression from where a first round talent would.

I'd rather have that than a DE we won't use for several years and can find late in just about any draft or an OT that I honestly don't think we need at all as long as our normal guys are healthy. The offense functions well enough to do their job even with a mediocre Oline, the same cannot be said of the defense with a mediocre secondary. Sure it can be improved but if we're in a position to choose between an OT and a CB that can both be considered the BPA, as would be the case if we're choosing between, say, Sherrod, Ijalana, Brandon Harris, and Aaron Williams, I'm taking the CB.

04-21-2011, 06:35 PM
this is starting to sound like last year when everyone freaked out if they heard we were drafting a player other then Kyle Wilson or a saftey

04-21-2011, 07:10 PM
this is starting to sound like last year when everyone freaked out if they heard we were drafting a player other then Kyle Wilson or a saftey

Ya, except this year the DB class is more talented, we're selecting 31st instead of 18th and have a much more limited talent pool to choose from, and there isn't an offensive lineman of Maurkice's pedigree that will be around to choose instead (or a defensive lineman of similar skill, for that matter)

If an OL like Pouncey, Carimi, Solder, etc. falls, I have no problem if we take them instead. Same thing if Phil Taylor or a top 25 rated 3-4DE falls. Or even if we traded up to get one of them. But if we're sitting there at 31 with a big board consisting of Derek Sherrod, Danny Watkins, Cameron Heyward, Aaron Williams, and Brandon Harris, I don't see how you can possibly take one of the linemen.

04-22-2011, 04:43 AM
i agree with you there except for Brandon Harris who i wouldnt touch before the 2nd round. i would love to have a top tackel. we dont really need a guard so early but a tackel would be really nice. a NT is a must in this draft and i wouldnt have any problem taking Phil Taylor. like you said though, if there all gone then BPA is probably Williams

04-24-2011, 12:56 PM
With our D-Line we really don't need a D-Lineman who isn't going to play getting taken in the first 3 rounds...We do need O-Line help because Mediocre Olines kill drives(and QB's)...and we need DB's because our blitz and a HEALTHY Troy has been what makes the secondary look good, not the other way around...1 good CB, 2 painfully slow ones, a 3rd round Bust and a rookie that gets no burn isn't going to work in todays spread Offense NFL....the Packers laid the Blueprint in the SB, Quick passes against a slow secondary On Offense, and attack a weak O-Line on Defense...so with the weaknesses being so obvious why wouldn't a GM worth his salt concentrate on those areas?