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The cornerback position was once a strength for the Steelers, but it is now filled with question marks heading into the 2021 season with slot cornerback Mike Hilton signing with the Bengals in free agency and cornerback Steven Nelson being released as a cap casualty this offseason.
However, they still have veteran Joe Haden at one cornerback spot and they're counting on Cam Sutton to replace Nelson at the right outside cornerback position. The real question is who will take over Hilton's slot cornerback role. The options are two unproven cornerbacks in James Pierre and Justin Layne, or perhaps undrafted rookie free agent Shakur Brown. There's also the possibility of kicking either Pierre or Layne to the outside cornerback spot in certain sub-packages and have Sutton play in the slot.
Despite the uncertainty at the cornerback position, Pro Football Focus still ranked the Steelers' secondary pretty high, slotting them at No. 12 in the NFL.
"The Steelers will be relying on several younger players to step up following the offseason losses of Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton in the secondary," Ben Linsey of PFF wrote. "Cameron Sutton is one of them, and he will likely start opposite Joe Haden at cornerback. Sutton has ranked in the 94th percentile in coverage grade on a per-snap basis among all cornerbacks since 2019, though much of that grade stems from his work in the slot.
"Minkah Fitzpatrick has been excellent since taking over as the team’s free safety in 2019. No defense has allowed fewer completions on passes 20-plus yards downfield than Pittsburgh (32) over that stretch."