Among the list of positions Pittsburgh Steelers fans are still concerned about, the cornerback position would absolutely be near the top. The biggest concern of the group is how no one is deemed to be the “CB1” on the roster. Others would go as far to suggest the team has a bunch of CB2s, and they need a top tier player on the outside.
But what if the Steelers’ plan under Teryl Austin isn’t your typical approach to the secondary? What if it is more about matching up players/skill sets, and not focusing on the same two cornerbacks remaining on the field and rotating sub package players in and out of the lineup?
That is exactly what veteran cornerback Cam Sutton alluded to during the team’s mandatory minicamp recently.
“We are working a lot of interchangeable pieces and seeing not just what guys can do but what we can do together, as well,” Sutton said. “It’s all about matches. It’s all about showing the offense different things out there on the field week in and week out.
“Who knows? You might see Ahkello [Witherspoon] inside. You might see Levi [Wallace] inside. You might see other guys moving around. All of us are in this together. We’re one link of a whole, so we need all the pieces.”
One of the pieces which isn’t in the mix this season, but has become a leader in the cornerback room was none other than Joe Haden. With Haden still on the open market, some fans would love to see Haden return, but it seems as if the team is preparing for life without Haden.
“Definitely a lot of love and a lot of respect for Joe,” said second-year secondary coach Grady Brown. “We miss his energy. But the entire room has done a good job of just showing up every day and bringing the proper energy that it takes to learn and put the work in and get better.”
With Haden, the entrenched starter during his tenure in Pittsburgh, out of the lineup, he is going to be a battle at almost every secondary position, and with every player.
“Let’s hope it’s a position battle everywhere,” Brown said. “Competition breeds top-notch effort, top-notch attention to detail, so we’d like to think that it’s competition throughout the secondary.
“My job is just to make sure all the guys are playing at a high level. We’ll find a way to get everyone on the field.”
Without Haden, and not knowing what this new-look secondary will resemble, is there uncertainty within the team? Are the players on board with what Austin is trying to implement? According to Terrell Edmunds, they are looking forward to the change, and the competition which will come with it.
“I wouldn’t really call it uncertainty,” Edmunds said. “I’d just call it a dogfight now.
“Yes, we had Joe. He was the older guy but now we have a bunch of different guys out there competing, trying to see who’s gonna take that step of being the starter this week, the starter next week. And we have three guys, we have pretty much all our guys, that are starter capable.”
The Steelers secondary will look different, not just from a personal standpoint, but also with how the secondary could be deployed on a weekly basis. Could this be a good thing? That has yet to be seen, but it certainly seems as if the team is willing to look outside the box with the players they have on their current roster.
Be sure to stay tuned to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the start of training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA on July 26th.