The Pittsburgh Steelers open training camp in Latrobe in just over a month from now. With the OTA sessions and mini camp behind us, we can now start to focus on the battles for roster spots for certain positions.
First up in our series is the cornerback position. The Steelers have opened the last two seasons with 6 cornerbacks on the 53 man roster and that could indeed be the case once again this year. Gone from last year are William Gay and Bryant McFadden. The four locks at this time to make the 53 man roster are obvious in Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen. With that being noted, there figures to be at least one if not two roster spots available on the 53 at the cornerback position.
Currently there are four cornerbacks on the Steelers 90 man roster that could compete for those two spots in Terrence Frederick, Terry Carter, Andre Freeman and Walter McFadden. Let\'s have a look at each
Terrence Frederick - Frederick was drafted by the Steelers in the 7th round this past April out of Texas A&M where he started 45 of 50 career games. He finished his college career with 205 tackles and 6 sacks. He is a little undersized at 5096, and although he played both inside and outside in college, many scouts believe that he is best suited as a nickel back in a 3-4 defense. Frederick was credited with 30 pass break-ups and 4 interceptions in his 50 games at A&M and he also forced 2 fumbles. Despite being regarded as undersized and slow of foot by scouts, General Manager Kevin Colbert termed him quicker than fast following his selection. Frederick makes up for both of those perceived negatives with his ability to quickly diagnose plays and his understanding of good angles. He is a very willing tackler, but very inconsistent in every facet of his game, much like all late round corners. His tackling technique is inconsistent at times, but that can be improved as he seems willing to hit. His main weakness that showed up on film was when he was asked to press or play man coverage. He can close quickly when playing in zone and is usually always around the ball. He figures to only make the 53 man roster if he shows some upside in training camp and ability to play on special teams. Since being drafted, we have not heard the name of Frederick much during all of the OTA sessions and the mini camp. Just because he was drafted in no way makes him a lock for the 53 man roster, but he figures to have the inside track.
Terry Carter - Carter was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana Tech and measures in at 5102. During his college career, Carter recorded 152 total tackles, 61 of which came in his final season. He also was responsible for 18 career pass break-ups, 3 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles in the 47 games he played in. From the limited tape I have watched of Carter, he mostly lined up on the outside left. He can play both man and off, but seems better suited for off coverage in a zone type defense such as the Steelers play. He does not flip his hips very fluidly and tends to turn and run too soon at times. He does seem to close well when the play is in front of him though, but is not really good at fighting off blockers, especially tight ends. His tackle numbers suggest he his willing to hit, but I did not see enough film on him to judge that ability. The good thing about Carter is that we did here is name mentioned a few times by the media during the recent mini camp as he reportedly made a few nice interceptions. Much like Frederick, he will have to show his ability to perhaps play both inside and outside in camp and he must excel in special teams to secure a roster spot.
Walter McFadden - McFadden was signed to the roster just after the 2011 season ended. He was originally drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, but only saw action in four games his rookie season. McFadden saw his most playing time against the Miami Dolphins in week 12 of the 2010 season at right cornerback and he did not fare well. He was thrown at 6 times and allowed 5 receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown. The Raiders released the former Auburn product prior to the start of the 2011 season and he eventually landed on the practice squad of the Jacksonville Jaguars in mid October. His stay with the Jaguars did not last long, but following his release he was signed to the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad for one week. McFadden measures in at 5100 and is likely best suited to play inside. He is a real longshot to make the Steelers 53.
Andre Freeman - Freeman was a late arrival as he was signed to roster as an undrafted free agent in May after playing at nearby Slippery Rock. The 5105 cornerback played outside in college and recorded 23 tackles, 1 interception and 2 pass break-ups in 7 games last season. Freeman has been working extensively with Taylor since being signed, and could be a dark horse candidate for a roster spot with a strong training camp. He flashed early in OTA sessions according to a few media reports, but that is the extent of what we have heard about him since his signing. His reps will likely be limited, so he must take advantage of every snap he gets and he must outshine the other roster hopeful cornerbacks on special teams. Freeman did have two punt blocks in one game against Lock Haven in 2009.
In summation, one roster spot is certainly open for one of the four players listed above with the possibility of two making it depending on how the numbers shake out. At this time I would say that McFadden has the longest shot of the four of making the roster. We should get a much better idea on the other three when camp opens as to what order they are getting reps respectively. Special teams is everything to these young cornerbacks, so pay close attention to each when the preseason games get started.
Previous Training Camp Roster Battle Post
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Defensive Ends
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Wide Receivers
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Tight Ends
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Kickers
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Safeties
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Running Backs
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Nose Tackles