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hawaiiansteel
05-18-2012, 05:55 PM
Talkin' Cornerbacks: Steelers' Starting Cornerback in 2012 Not As Important as Positional Depth

by Neal Coolong on May 18, 2012

http://cdn0.sbnation.com/entry_photo_images/4074309/GYI0061437094.jpg

The Steelers depth at cornerback should be one of their strength in 2012, but it's also one of its biggest question marks.

Such is the way of things for NFL cornerbacks. Every play, hero or goat. Riding that thin line between greatness and ridicule, it is, next to quarterback, the toughest mental position on the field. The Steelers will ride into training camp with one definite starter, CB Ike Taylor, and three younger players vying for the starting spot opposite Taylor - CBs Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown.

Who's going to start?

This is a classic position of competition. Due to the mental rigors of it, all must be challenged intensely before any "winner" can be named. It would be unwise to name one now, but expect Lewis to emerge as the starting cornerback opposite Taylor after a tough competition from emerging stud Allen.

It's almost necessary nowadays to name the nickel defensive back a starter as well, and Allen, due to his size and strength, will continue his growth as an outstanding slot defender, will hold down nickel duties.

Lewis (who turned 26 Thursday) and Allen both did well last season essentially as in-season replacements for CB Bryant McFadden, who went from starter to non-participator as 2011 went on. Both played nickel duties, Lewis on the outside when former Steelers CB William Gay shifted inside, and Allen inside in dime packages, most notably, against the high-powered Patriots offense in Week 8.

How much does the "starter" tag really matter?

I suppose it will for Lewis's upcoming contract negotiations (he'll play this season with a restricted free agency 1-year deal, and be unrestricted next year), but both he and Allen have the ability to play inside rather than outside. Lewis has the advantage of much more experience than Allen (29 games to 15, and Lewis was in on 404 snaps last year to 60 for Allen), so on one hand, it's silly to etch either of their name in stone next to "CB2." On the other, both should expect to see the field plenty often this year.

What about Brown?

Even with an increasingly impressive special teams resume, Brown just simply looks like the odd man out in a talented, young positional race. Certainly, we aren't casting him out permanently, it's only May, and it's a very long season. That's the nice part about depth at a position. Things can - and will - change.

At the very least, Brown looks like a top-end special teams gunner, and will continue to fill that kind of role in 2012.

Is this position locked up for the foreseeable future?

We've spent much time talking about the revamped offensive line, but before that, the priority investment seemed to be at cornerback. The genius part of the Steelers' previous future plan at the position was they scored big on younger players who fit a mold; tall, long and athletic. While having to fit in a guy like McFadden for transitional purposes, the Steelers drafted Lewis out of Oregon State in the third round of the 2009 draft, and Brown (Texas) in the third round, and Allen (The Citadel) in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. Mix in a swing-and-a-miss with fifth-rounder Joe Burnett in 2009, the Steelers invested just as heavily in cornerback as they recently have in offensive line, just without the big-time dollar amount or height of picks. The amount of money they've saved in building quality depth as opposed to giving out massive contracts to free agents like Nnamdi Asomugha has been more than beneficial, and it's something that will continue for the next few years.

Lewis could be the starter in 2012. Allen could be as well. With Lewis set to hit free agency, they have flexibility in the sense he's not an absolute must-sign (at this point anyway).

Also, they all are really system guys; physical, big zone corners (with the ability to play man, just not a ton of tape to show potential free agent suitors) with athleticism. It's the Steelers' defense's highest value position on the roster - most talent for the least amount of money.

They're going to reap the benefits of their investment in 2012.

http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2012/5/18/3028240/steelers-2012-roster-cornerback-depth-chart-keenan-lewis-starting-cortez-allen-curtis-brown#storyjump

Slapstick
05-18-2012, 08:37 PM
I'm looking forward to the CB play this year, and I haven't said that for a long time...

I can't help but think that, due to injury, all three of the young CBs will see time on defense...with no William Gay and no McFadden on the roster, there will be more snaps to go around...

Crash
05-18-2012, 08:39 PM
Any warm body can play 8 yards off the ball on 3rd and 3.

Our pass defense only goes as far as Harrison and Woodley take it.

Chadman
05-18-2012, 09:24 PM
Crash is right- the success of our CB's is largely dependant on Harrison & Woodley. Question Chadman has is- which CB gives us the most 'big play' ability- the Steelers need to generate more turnovers.

Shoe
05-18-2012, 09:40 PM
Crash is right- the success of our CB's is largely dependant on Harrison & Woodley. Question Chadman has is- which CB gives us the most 'big play' ability- the Steelers need to generate more turnovers.

Agreed.
The bottom line is that they have covered up for average CB play for years; they just couldn't do it last year.

I also don't like the fact that Ike is supposed as "set" on one side. I mean, I know he probably is. But to me, he's used up a good portion of any "goodwill" he had with that historically abysmal performance against Demaryus Thomas--or Dad, as Ike should call him.

Ike's STONE hands have been forgiven, because he was supposed as such a dependable player. He still might be (dependable), but that ONE GAME basically shows that he isn't the player that we thought he was.

He's CERTAINLY on the downside of his career; and judging by that last game, it could be precipitous.

Chadman
05-19-2012, 04:00 AM
Agreed.
The bottom line is that they have covered up for average CB play for years; they just couldn't do it last year.

I also don't like the fact that Ike is supposed as "set" on one side. I mean, I know he probably is. But to me, he's used up a good portion of any "goodwill" he had with that historically abysmal performance against Demaryus Thomas--or Dad, as Ike should call him.

Ike's STONE hands have been forgiven, because he was supposed as such a dependable player. He still might be (dependable), but that ONE GAME basically shows that he isn't the player that we thought he was.

He's CERTAINLY on the downside of his career; and judging by that last game, it could be precipitous.

Seeing as how we haven't seen Ike get tooled that badly since the Seattle SB victory (Go back & watch- Darrell Jackson was open all day), it would seem that the "Denver Incident" was more the exception than the rule for Ike.

So long as he's physically up to it, we know what we get from him- good coverage, solid play. To be honest- Chadman thinks that Cortez Allen might end up being the new Ike Taylor- similar body types, similar characteristics in their play.

Keenan Lewis is a bit of a stiff, but he's probably the 'safe LeBeau' option in that he'll play 5-10 yards off the WR & tackle you consistantly, but will never make you go 'wow'. Think Bryant McFadden at his best, but slower.

Curtis Brown is the one Chadman thinks might be the best #2 CB- instinctive, agile & has a nose for the ball. Would not be upset if Brown is the #2 this season with a look to Allen becoming the #1 in a season or 2.

Shoe
05-19-2012, 10:54 PM
Seeing as how we haven't seen Ike get tooled that badly since the Seattle SB victory (Go back & watch- Darrell Jackson was open all day), it would seem that the "Denver Incident" was more the exception than the rule for Ike.

So long as he's physically up to it, we know what we get from him- good coverage, solid play. To be honest- Chadman thinks that Cortez Allen might end up being the new Ike Taylor- similar body types, similar characteristics in their play.

Keenan Lewis is a bit of a stiff, but he's probably the 'safe LeBeau' option in that he'll play 5-10 yards off the WR & tackle you consistantly, but will never make you go 'wow'. Think Bryant McFadden at his best, but slower.

Curtis Brown is the one Chadman thinks might be the best #2 CB- instinctive, agile & has a nose for the ball. Would not be upset if Brown is the #2 this season with a look to Allen becoming the #1 in a season or 2.

Shoe thinks Chadman is quite optimistic, but hopes he's right! I had a feeling Brown, while athletic and explosive, is limited in key ways for a CB. I don't think he showed anything in terms of instincts and a nose for the ball at UT. I could be wrong.

I've already said what I thought of Ike.

As for tez Allen, I am with you. I am hopeful, that he is a diamond in the rough. As you said, Lewis is probably the poorman's Deshea/BMcFadden/Willie Williams/DJ Johnson type that we've seen in LeBeau's defense throughout.

Slapstick
05-20-2012, 11:53 AM
I would love to have another DeShea Townsend type on this defense...he played behind inferior but more highly paid CBs early in his career but played very well when finally given a chance to start...

hawaiiansteel
05-21-2012, 04:06 PM
Curtis Brown Proved Worth On Special Teams As A Rookie

Monday, May 21st, 2012 by Dave Bryan

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Curtis Brown didn't see any snaps on the defensive side of the football as a rookie, but he did contribute quite a bit on special teams, a necessity for all young defensive players drafted by Pittsburgh.

Football Outsiders released their 2011 Special Teams Tackles Stats on Monday and Brown finished 11th on their list with 14 return tackles, of which 10 were regarded as stops. A stop, as defined by FO, is when a coverage player made it downfield to get a tackle (or assist) that stopped a return for less-than-average value. The stop rate for Brown was 71%.

Keep in mind that Brown only played in 12 games as a rookie as he was inactive week one against the Baltimore Ravens and he missed the remaining three games of the season last year due to a knee injury which eventually led to him being placed on injured reserve. That means that the rookie out of Texas averaged over one return tackle a game and nearly one stop a game. Had he played all 16 games, he likely would have finished in the top five easily.

Brown was regarded as a special teams demon while at Texas where he recorded 35 career special-teams tackles. He certainly has lived up to that billing thus far with the Steelers.

Not to be left out in the recent rankings is safety Ryan Mundy, who just made the list with 12 return tackles of which 6 were considered stops.

Brown had his meniscus repaired after being placed on injured reserve and by all reports is ready to pick up where he left off last season. He figures to compete for the starting nickel cornerback role this offseason and he will certainly be a fixture on special teams once again.

http://network.yardbarker.com/nfl/article_external/curtis_brown_proved_worth_on_special_teams_as_a_ro okie/10840097