Steelers Could Cut Former First-Round Pick, Says Analyst

Mike Tomlin

Getty The Steelers could move on from former first-round pick Karl Joseph.

The Pittsburgh Steelers could move on from a former first-round draft pick.

According to Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report, safety Karl Joseph is a candidate to be cut by the Steelers this offseason. Wharton’s article lists a prime candidate on each NFL team’s roster who could be cut due to cap reasons or because they face stiff competition at their positions of play.

Wharton explains that the re-signing of incumbent starter Terrell Edmunds makes it better for Joseph to move on to a fresh situation in 2022. In addition to Edmunds, the Steelers will also return Miles Killebrew.

“Joseph played less than Killebrew as well last year,” says Wharton. “His decision to return to Pittsburgh was a gamble based on potential playing time. Had Edmunds departed, he could have challenged for a starting role.”

Joseph re-signed with the Steelers on a one-year deal prior to Edmunds’ own re-signing with Pittsburgh just several weeks later. Wharton notes how Joseph being buried on the depth chart during the 2021 season behind starter Edmunds and special teams ace Killebrew is cause for concern heading into the 2022 season.

“Instead, Joseph is going back into a situation where he played in two games and logged two tackles behind others who were also retained,” says Wharton. “He was a productive player in Cleveland as recently as 2020, where he tallied 67 tackles and an interception in eight starts (14 games). He’d be better off competing in a fresh situation in 2022 than running it back in a positional battle he’ll likely lose again.”

Why Joseph Saw Minimal Playing Time With Steelers

While Wharton brings up a valid point, it’s also worth noting that the 28-year-old didn’t sign with the Steelers until after the final roster cuts at the end of the preseason last year. Prior to the 2021 season, Joseph had started at least eight games every season since entering the league in 2016 with the Las Vegas Raiders.

In other words, Joseph will finally have a full offseason to learn the Steelers’ defensive system, an opportunity he was not afforded last year. If Pittsburgh didn’t feel highly about the veteran safety, they wouldn’t have re-signed him.

According to Pro Football Focus, Joseph posted at least a 67.8 defensive grade every year from 2016 until 2019. By comparison, that exceeds Edmunds’ defensive grade of 60.1 last season. In fact, Edmunds has posted a higher defensive grade in only one season (70.9 in 2020) than any of Joseph’s seasons during that four-year time frame.

Of the Steelers’ seven draft picks in the 2022 NFL draft, Pittsburgh didn’t spend a single selection on a safety. Even if Joseph loses out on the starting strong safety battle with Edmunds, Pittsburgh could opt to retain the veteran safety as insurance.

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Report: Steelers Considered ‘Landing Spot’ for Bradberry

The Steelers could be in the market for a veteran cornerback.

According to The Athletic’s Dan Duggan, the Steelers are a potential “landing spot” for James Bradberry. The New York Giants released Bradberry earlier this week.

Though trade interest in Bradberry was tepid, expect a stronger market to materialize now that teams have the freedom to negotiate a deal from scratch without needing to part with any draft picks. The Eagles, Chiefs, Raiders, Bengals and Steelers are among the potential landing spots,” Duggan said.

The Steelers are lacking in depth at the cornerback position outside of Levi Wallace. Projected starter Ahkello Witherspoon does have 36 starts to his name, but he hasn’t started more than four games in a single season since 2019. Furthermore, he hasn’t started a full season since 2018.

Adding a player of Bradberry’s caliber — he was a Pro Bowl selection in 2020 — could vastly improve the Steelers’ secondary.

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