Reports surfaced late last night that the Pittsburgh Steelers could be one of many teams interested in pursuing Tennessee Titans free agent cornerback Alterraun Verner. Outside of the fact that the Steelers almost never sign big-money free agents from other clubs, it’s a plausible scenario, given their concerns at the position.
Verner is arguably the best cornerback on the market, and his market has only grown as the free agency period approaches with the nearly $10 million per season contract that Sam Shields signed with the Green Bay Packers.
That took one of the other top players off the market and set the tone for the cornerback market, and the free agent market as a whole.
Whether or not the Steelers have legitimate, substantial interest in signing Verner remains unclear, but they would have to make some further cap-saving moves to get it done, which could include releasing cornerback Ike Taylor.
Verner does have an interesting connection to Pittsburgh: current Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake was the secondary coach at his alma mater, UCLA, during Verner’s final season with the university.
While Verner was in Arizona in 2010 training and preparing for the NFL draft, Jon Gold of Inside UCLA was able to ask him a few questions about his former position coach after the news that Lake decided to leave the school.
Verner spoke highly of Lake, unsurprisingly, and said it was a shock to everybody in the university when Lake chose to leave, citing family reasons at the time.
Lake took a year off coaching after leaving UCLA before being offered the defensive backs coach position with the Steelers, which was open after Ray Horton left to become the defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals.
Gold then asked Verner about what he credits Lake for in developing his own game:
Oh man, the guy is very knowledgeable. Just the mentality of attacking practice, the mentality of going into the game, the mentality of playing the position. He did it at the highest level and did it really well. He brought that to his coaching, but not only that, he’d listen to you as a player and not just dictate to you.
That sounds an awful lot like what we still hear about Lake whenever his players speak about him. Keenan Lewis spoke glowingly about what Lake did for his career, helping to turn it around and become a complete starter.
Of course, don’t expect that to sway Verner and his agent much when it comes to talking shop, but I would bet that Lake wouldn’t mind having another chance to coach his former pupil and fellow UCLA alum.