Steelers Warned to Avoid All-American Cornerback in 1st Round of NFL Draft

Mike Tomlin Kool-Aid McKinstry

Getty Bleacher Report's Alex Ballentine argued that the Pittsburgh Steelers shouldn't draft Alabama cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry in the first round of the 2024 NFL draft.

Kool-Aid McKinstry from Alabama is one of the top rated cornerback prospects in the 2024 NFL draft. But Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine argued he shouldn’t be a consideration for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round.

Ballentine lamented that the Steelers need to target a player to improve their offense at No. 20 overall. So, he named McKinstry the one prospect the Steelers “must avoid” in the draft.

“The Pittsburgh Steelers may be tempted to pair the Alabama product with Joey Porter Jr. if he’s still on the board at No. 20,” wrote Ballentine.

“However, the Steelers were 10th in passer rating allowed last season with a combination of Porter, Patrick Peterson and Levi Wallace manning the cornerback spots. Meanwhile, the offense was 28th in scoring and 23rd in EPA per play, in part because their offensive line wasn’t up to snuff.

“The Steelers could stand to add upgrades at both left tackle and center. Given the quality of this draft class at both positions, it would be bad resource management to pass on someone like Amarius Mims or even Jackson Powers-Johnson in favor of McKinstry.”

McKinstry was one of college football’s top cornerbacks during the 2023 season. He made first-team All-America at multiple media outlets, including the Associated Press.

Over his career at Alabama, McKinstry recorded 23 pass defenses, 2 interceptions and 93 total tackles, including 5 tackles for loss. He also had 2 sacks.

Steelers ‘Must Avoid’ CB Kool-Aid McKinstry: Analyst

The crux of Ballentine’s argument for why the Steelers should avoid McKinstry doesn’t really have anything to do with him. Instead, he simply argued Pittsburgh should address its offense at No. 20.

Based on the team’s recent offensive performance, it’s hard to argue with that thought. The Steelers haven’t finished better than 23rd in total offense since 2018.

Ballentine mentioned offensive tackle Amarius Mims and center Jackson Powers-Johnson as preferable targets for the Steelers. Offensive linemen Graham Barton, J.C. Latham and Troy Fautanu are other prospects who could upgrade Pittsburgh’s offensive line.

If the Steelers found a starting right tackle at No. 20 overall, they could flip 2023 first-rounder Broderick Jones back to his more natural left tackle. That would send incumbent left tackle Dan Moore Jr., who is entering the final year of his rookie contract, to the bench.

But the Steelers could also use a top-tier center. Pittsburgh doesn’t have any centers on its current 2024 roster.

McKinstry Dealing With Foot Injury

Ballentine made no mention of McKinstry’s foot injury. But one could argue the ailment is another reason the Steelers should avoid the Alabama cornerback.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that doctors at the NFL combine found a Jones fracture in McKinstry’s right foot. As a result, McKinstry didn’t work out at the combine.

Jones fractures typically happen because of increased training or pressure on one’s feet. The fracture occurs on the pinky toe side of the foot.

The good news, though, is that on April 10, Rapoport reported McKinstry is on track for a full recovery, which typically takes 6-8 weeks. Because McKinstry’s surgery was in March, he could be completely healthy by rookie minicamps.

Even still, if Ballentine was picking for the Steelers, he made it clear he wouldn’t select the Alabama cornerback.

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