It may or may not be official by the time this post runs since I’m writing this at four in the morning, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to sign Patrick Peterson, the eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback. He should be speaking to the local media today if all goes well.
He comes in just as Cameron Sutton, their starter for the past two seasons and a six-year Steeler, makes his exit for the Detroit Lions. But with Peterson now in two, what does that mean for the 2023 NFL Draft? Would they still jump at a top cornerback if he is available, relative to other needs? Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio believes so—and that it might even be of benefit.
“The draft is the draft, and sometimes, whether it’s planned or not, when you address a position of need, it provides insurance that that player you may be eye-balling is there and you don’t get jumped”, he said during an appearance on 93.7 The Fan yesterday with Andrew Fillipponi and Chris Mueller. “If the need is too obvious, there’s a chance you get jumped for the guy you may be looking for in whatever round it is you’re looking for it”.
One might argue that this is what happened the last time the Steelers were believed to be eager for a cornerback, with the Cincinnati Bengals drafted William Jackson III ahead of them. They ended up using their selection immediately following on another cornerback, Artie Burns, who had a less successful career.
Yet it has worked out for them at other times. They landed Kenny Pickett last year, even if they did insure themselves with the signing of Mitch Trubisky in free agency (which Florio also pointed out). They needed a running back when they got Najee Harris, a center when they got Maurkice Pouncey, a guard when they got David DeCastro, an outside linebacker when they got T.J. Watt, and, well, an inside linebacker when they got Devin Bush. So it doesn’t always work out even when you get what you want.
This year, the top three names at cornerback in the draft are Devon Witherspoon, Christian Gonzalez, and Joey Porter Jr. The first two are widely expected to be off the board by the time Pittsburgh selects at 17, but Porter has a fair chance of being there. And somebody like Deonte Banks could be an option as well.
With that being said, a lot of teams have been addressing their needs at the cornerback position this offseason, in spite of the perception that this is a deep draft there, so one wonders how that shapes the odds of one of the top three prospects being available at 17.
And it’s no slam dunk that they would be set on taking one of Witherspoon, Gonzalez, or Porter if he is on the board at 17. They could just as easily consider an offensive tackle, for example, or a defensive lineman.