The Pittsburgh Steelers could be the perfect landing spot for a veteran cornerback.
As noted by Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report, the Steelers’ projected starters at cornerback — Levi Wallace and Ahkello Weatherspoon — are among the weakest in the NFL. According to Wharton, one trade the Steelers should seek to make is for New Orleans Saints cornerback Bradley Roby. In this proposed trade scenario, the Steelers would send a sixth-round draft pick in next year’s draft in exchange for the 30-year-old corner.
Why Roby Is Appealing for Steelers
Wharton attributes Roby’s low cap hit of $1.765 million and his versatility as key reasons why Pittsburgh should make a play for the former first-round draft pick.
“Roby is sticky in man coverage and can play outside or in the slot,” says Wharton. “Current Steelers cornerbacks Levi Wallace and Ahkello Witherspoon are more suited for heavy zone play calls, whereas Roby would give defensive coordinator Teryl Austin more flexibility in case the zone isn’t working. He’d be at least a rotational starter for Pittsburgh compared to fifth or sixth on a loaded Saints depth chart.”
Wharton also explains that while the Steelers possess tons of salary cap space ($22.6 million), there’s a league-wide shortage of quality cornerbacks available.
“The Pittsburgh Steelers rarely have a significant amount of cap room to use, but it won’t do them much good at this point in the offseason,” explains Wharton. “There’s a league-wide shortage of potentially available quality veteran cornerbacks, but the Steelers’ current projected starters are the weakest in the NFL.”
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Roby Could Fill Haden’s Void With Steelers
Roby has been a valuable contributor since entering the league in 2014 with the Denver Broncos. In fact, Roby missed just one game during his stint with the Broncos from 2014 until 2018. Furthermore, Roby started all 20 of his appearances with the Houston Texans in 2019 and 2020, before settling into a backup role with the Saints in 2021.
According to Pro Football Focus, Roby posted a 64.6 defensive grade while playing the slot on 118 of his 253 snaps in coverage (46.6%) last season. While the grade isn’t overly impressive, it’s actually an upgrade over Wallace’s defensive grade (62.8 last season) and Cameron Sutton (59.3 defensive grade), who ranked second on the team in snaps (1,089).
Considering the Steelers’ defensive unit was one of their biggest weaknesses last season, ensuring that the backfield is in tip-top shape entering the season is important. Pittsburgh actually ranked ninth in passing yards and yards per attempt last season. However, that was also with veteran Joe Haden in the fold (12 games, 11 starts last season), who is now a free agent. Roby could occupy the true veteran presence lacking in the Steelers’ backfield.
Prior to the 2021 season, Roby actually posted an above-average defensive grade of 71.5 during the 2020 season while playing on a Texans defense lacking in talent. The 2020 Texans ranked 27th in points allowed and didn’t feature a single player on defense named to the Pro Bowl.
If the Steelers can acquire Roby — a versatile experienced corner with a low salary cap figure — for a sixth-round pick, Pittsburgh should absolutely pounce on the deal.