Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers are potentially within striking distance, it’s not yet known just how seriously they intend to be players during free agency—at least with respect to other teams’ players. With having already wrapped up their own top free agent—outside linebacker Jason Worilds—there are rumors of their interest turning elsewhere.
As reported yesterday, there seems to be potential interest in Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, who is recovering from spinal fusion surgery performed by one of the Steelers’ own team physicians.
Also late last night, word came out from Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean that the Steelers are among several teams that have expressed interest in pending free agent cornerback Alterraun Verner.
A former fourth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2010, Verner has played in all 64 games of his career, starting 47 of them, including all 32 contests over the course of the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
He really blossomed in particular during this past season when he intercepted five passes and got his hands on another 22. In total, he has 11 interceptions in his four-year career to go along with 50 pass deflections.
A competent run defender for the position, Verner is regularly in on the tackle, making 57 this past season, with 49 being solo tackles. The season prior, he made 81 tackles. In his rookie season, he had 101 tackles.
In coverage, Verner allowed under half of the passes targeted in his zone to be caught, allowing 39 receptions on 79 targets for 579 yards and two touchdowns. His quarterback rating against was just 55.8.
The Steelers are certainly in the market for a cornerback. Their top cornerback, Ike Taylor, is in the last season of his contract, and likely the last season of his career. If the Steelers really want Verner, they may release Taylor altogether.
Either way, there will be an immediate need at the position in 2015 with only William Gay and Cortez Allen possessing any experience.
Gay, primarily a nickel corner, is in the second year of a three-year contract and himself is 29 years old. Allen is in the final year of his rookie contract, and where his ceiling lies is still a mystery.
Cornerback is a high-priority position as a draft target for the Steelers right now. But if they decide to make a splash in free agency with a signing such as Verner, that could quickly change overnight.