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Insider Only Steelers involved in a Cornerback Conundrum on whether to go the inexperience route

Steelers Cornerback situation in flux

The Pittsburgh Steelers believe they have the most talented team they have had since the 2010 team that went to the Super Bowl and lost to Green Bay.

Good arguments can be made they are the clear cut second best team in the AFC.

We all know about the talent on offense, but on D, the Steelers feel great about the upside of Bud Dupree/T.J. Watt as starters at the outside backers, with the organization believing Ryan Shazier could be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate if he can stay healthy this season.

A healthy Cam Heyward and improving Javon Hargrave on the D-line see’s a more impactful unit but why the Steelers are likely going to be that team that could beat anyone while also lose to anyone is because of the secondary.

With Ben Roethlisberger nearing the end of his career, this off-season was the prime opportunity for the Steelers to make a needed splash at corner.

They tried hard for Dre Kirkpatrick but just like the 2016 off-season with Eric Weddle, they fell short like they often do with outside impact players.

A blockbuster trade for the Rams Trumane Johnson was mulled but never pursued hard enough where things got close.

So here are the Steelers with Super Bowl aspirations and even the coaching staff not having much clue on how things are going to play out with the cornerback group.

What we see in Week 1 is not likely what you see in Week 4.

The only thing set in stone is Artie Burns starting and as the Indianapolis game showed, there’s still a learning curve for him.

Where the intrigue begins:

Ross Cockrell the starter opposite of Burns is so much in the coaches doghouse, he’s not only in jeopardy of losing his starting spot to Coty Sensabaugh, there’s chatter he’s a cut candidate.

The best case scenario for the Steelers early in the season against a weak QB group is just getting the most talented players on the field, regardless of experience, live through some growing pains and hope a Cam Sutton or Mike Hilton evolve as consistent impact players by mid-season like Burns, Sean Davis did in 2016.

The Steelers most talented corners are Burns, Cam Sutter and Mike Hilton.

Saturday’s game vs Indy saw some experimenting where Cockrell/Sensabaugh, Gay/Hilton all alternating and the Steelers even going with 6 DB’s in some packages.

The Steelers have a cornerback conundrum.

They have a 2nd year corner in Artie Burns who is a starting caliber level corner but has not yet reached the that shutdown level the Steelers desperately need from at least one corner to get past New England.

The Steelers then have three veterans in Cockrell, Sensabaugh and Gay who just can’t play, and a potential high upside rookie in Cam Sutton who has shown great flashes but has barely been on the field this summer.

Then there’s Mike Hilton who continues to be a playmaking machine but even the Steelers are not sure what they have in him.

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About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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