Following a relative flurry of activity during the calendar month of March, the Pittsburgh Steelers snuck in one last signing on April 1 in order to make a fool out of myself and others who believed that they were done maneuvering for now.
And Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Steelers intend to have a look at former Oakland Raiders and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, so perhaps they’re still not quite done ahead of the draft.
That last signing was former Houston Texans cornerback Brice McCain, a five-year veteran sub-package and special teams player.
Earlier this offseason, head coach Mike Tomlin was adamant in emphasizing the importance of sub-packages in today’s NFL and how they are becoming the core of defenses as offenses continue to spread the formation with three or more wide receivers and multiple athletic, pass-catching tight ends.
At the end of that conversation, Tomlin talked about the cornerback position, saying, “man, you better have four”. McCain gives them four heading into the draft.
The only other cornerback with more than a handful of snaps on defense behind Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen, and William Gay was Curtis Brown, who was released last month. He had a career 85 snaps on defense and was rehabbing an ACL tear.
With Brown out of the picture, the depth chart behind Gay and Allen shaped up something like this: Antwon Blake, Isaiah Green, and Devin Smith.
McCain gives the Steelers a fourth option at cornerback with significant experience, logging over 2000 snaps over five seasons.
While his numbers last year may be ugly, he has had some success in his career. In 2011, in a little under 500 snaps, McCain intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and deflected 13 passes.
Make no mistake, this is purely a depth move, and as you’ve certainly read elsewhere, will have no bearing on how the Steelers approach the draft in the second week of May.
The Steelers will still most certainly be in the running to select one of the top three cornerbacks of this draft with the 15th overall pick, or, failing that, could well go back to the position in the second round, and then once again later in the draft.
But the organization likes to enter the draft process with as few holes as possible, and McCain helps them flesh out the depth chart at the cornerback position, having already patched their holes at safety in an effort to replenish the secondary.
In all likelihood, Shamarko Thomas would still be the favorite to play the dime back role over McCain, given Thomas’ versatility, but it helps insulate the team against injury, which was a concern last season. The Steelers were relatively lucky health-wise at the position, and you don’t want to tempt fate too often.