Free Agent CB Verner Has Steelers Connection With Former UCLA DB Coach Carnell Lake

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.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Melly

    2010 Draft- Verner goes in Rd 4 pick# 6. Rd 4 pick# 18 the Steelers select Thad Gibson!!!!! Geno Atkins goes #22 and Al Woods #25 of that round!!!

  • dgh57

    Yes, and the when we finally drafted a CB it was Crezdon Butler in the 5th rd.!

  • Melly

    Saw that too. Seahawks took Chancellor at the start of Rd 5. I thought Butler had a future and they gave up on him too soon?! But what do I know??

  • CW

    You never can tell with draft picks. Some show huge promise and turn into trash and others go undrafted and turn in great careers and multiple Pro Bowl appearances.

    Butler looked like that ideal later round prospect that could develop into a solid starter, but he never turned the corner.

  • Kevin Gobleck

    Maybe he’d give a slight discount since he has connections with Lake

  • Matt Manzo

    I thought Thad Lewis was gonna be good. And that we should’ve kept him a little longer.

  • William Weaver

    Don’t forget that means the Seahawks passed on chancellor in the 4th round. A lot of luck in the draft.

  • William Weaver

    Hindsight is 20/20.. Every team passed on geno Atkins 3 times is what that tells me.

  • dgh57

    Come to think of it we have 2 potential drawing cards for Verner: Lake and Munchak!

  • Jazz

    Hmm! His asking price will be around $10M? Well, I don’t expect to see him in Pittsburgh. I see the Jets has just released Cromartie, he might come a little cheaper.

  • Will Hammer

    Steeler won’t sign a big name . Can’t afford it …


    but they can afford it.

    Sam Shields 2014 cap hit is $5.6 million. He signed a 4 year $39 million deal. Ike Taylor is set to make $7 million.

    We could sign Verner and cut Ike and save money towards the cap.

  • MailboxKid

    You are forgetting the later years implication of a 10 mil yearly contract. His first year cap hit might be 6 but the next year it will be above ten as well as oncoming years after that. He’s too expensive for the Steelers. 6-7 mil per year is the best the steelers can and should offer.


    I’m not forgetting that actually. I realize his later cap hits will be more. The Steelers are looking pretty good cap wise in 15′ and 16′. There are reports of the cap going even higher next year.

    Sam Shields caps hits are


    Seems reasonable to me, with the cap going up.
    Hell, Ike Taylor’s cap hit this year is almost $12 million and he can’t even sniff a turnover.

    So, they CAN afford it.

  • MailboxKid

    Bringing up Ike Taylor doesn’t work towards your argument. No one thinks he’s worth the price.

    Let’s say you give Verner the same contract as Shields. Are you interested in paying a corner that high of a price for 4 years? I know I’m not, especially not knowing how he will fit into our scheme.
    Honestly, would you be willing for fork over that money for a corner?


    My whole argument is that we could afford him. Whether we should is another argument.

    I say why not, we only have 24 players under contract in 2015, and we are extremely thin at CB.

    It’s risky no doubt, but Carnell and Munchak were his past coaches, so they probably know all about him. If they feel confident that he can produce at a Pro Bowl level then I’m all for it.

  • PA2AK

    Yup…and Harrison was passed on 7 times and then cut, what 3-4 times before getting a job as a back-up.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I do not see us signing him but letting Ike go would be the best way to handle it. Verner is in his prime and it would make sense.

  • HiVul

    Verner is 25 years old, playing at a high level and we desperately need some help in our secondary. If they can afford it by cutting Ike, I would be very willing to shell out that money.

    Otherwise I don’t see much standing in the way of our CB situation being exactly the same as it was last year, aside from changes at the bottom of the depth chart. We don’t have a young CB coming through the development pipeline because they’ve apparently already given up on Hawthorne and we didn’t draft a CB early.

    You could say this year’s draft will fix that, but hell, even if we drafted 3 CBs in the first 3 rounds they probably wouldn’t see much playing time next year anyway.

  • SteelerDave

    Verner fits our style of play very well and would excel with Lake as his coach. This is the one big name FA I hope we make an exception for and find a way to sign asap.

  • steeltown

    Simply put, he’ll cost too much, whether we release Taylor or not I don’t see the Steelers forking over close to $10MIL per for a FA from another Team. I do think they’ll sign a FA defensive back, but not the hottest one on the market

  • steelster

    they have to resign pouncey, heyward and cortez allen next year and may have a 8 million dollar dead money hit for Woodley, things will be tight again in 2015.