Cornerback Versus Wide Receiver Battle Will Be Decided Tonight

Wednesday night on Twitter, I asked my followers who they thought the Pittsburgh Steelers would pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft that gets underway later this evening and unsurprisingly the consensus was that they wanted either a cornerback or a wide receiver with the former being the most popular of the two positions. Should it indeed come down to those two positions, current Philadelphia Eagles senior football advisor Tom Donahoe told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently that he feels the cornerback position will win out.

“If you look at the draft over time, there probably have been more busts picking wide receivers than there have been picking corners,” Donahoe told Bouchette. “With the emphasis on the passing game today, you almost feel like you have to have four or five corners on your roster who can play just to compete. More teams are using the hurry-up offense, there’s more emphasis on throwing the ball; you better have people out there covering guys.”

Donahoe, who was the Steelers director of football operations from 1991 to 1999, makes a good point about the need for four or five cornerbacks on the roster in today’s pass-happy league and currently the Steelers have only four on their roster with experience in Ike Taylor, William Gay, Cortez Allen and Brice McCain. McCain, however, is the new kid in town and being as he measures in at just under 5’9″, he’s a short kid at that.

Donahue, however, also told Bouchette that a wide receiver could be justified if he can make an impact right away. While I could certainly get onboard with that line of thinking, the Steelers last rookie wide receiver that made an immediate impact was Santonio Holmes, who caught 49 passes for 824 yards and two touchdowns in 2006.

If the Steelers were to somehow wind up drafting Mike Evans or Odell Beckham Jr. Thursday night in the first round, could they get those kind of numbers out of either of them in 2014? Remember, they already have Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton, and they certainly didn’t give Lance Moore a two year, $3 million contract to be No. 4 on the depth chart.

Sure, Beckham can also help in the return game, but how much is that worth in 2014 when there’s a pretty good chance that he catches way less than 40 passes?

Senior analyst and former Dallas Cowboys Vice President of player personnel Gil Brandt thinks the cornerback position should win out as well, according to Bouchette’s report.

“Why take the corner first?” Brandt asks. “Because there is a bunch of wide receivers. So if you take a wide receiver first and then go for a corner in the second round, that player is not going to have – I call it distance from the top. The wide receiver that you get in the second round or the third round is going to be a lot closer to the top than a corner.”

I think Brandt is on the money with that response and especially this year when it comes to the wide receiver class. Colbert even said as much on Monday during his pre draft press conference.

“The receivers, we think that’s a great position, he said. “They come in all shapes and sizes, big, small and return capable. It’s really a great group.”

While the cornerback class is also regarded as a fairly deep one this year, how confident would you be in having either Bradley Roby or Jason Verrett succeeding Taylor at some point this season and beyond? In addition, there’s no guarantee that either slides to the Steelers in the second round.

Colbert called this year’s cornerback class, “solid”, on Monday, but he did not reference the depth of it. If he’s unable to secure Justin Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard or Kyle Fuller in the first round Thursday night, he might be forced to wait until round three to draft one. If you look back at his track record when it comes to drafting cornerbacks in the third round or later, it’s not exactly great.

I’ve come a long way this offseason in my own thinking when it comes to the Steelers 2014 draft as it took some time to scout nearly 150 players. Following the Senior Bowl, I thought inside linebacker should be the way to go and then I let myself get caught up in the “tall” wide receiver talk for just a little bit. Finally, after getting pretty deep into the cornerback class, it became clear to me that it’s Fuller, Dennard and Gilbert followed by some serious rolls of the dice.

I’ve said along that I think the Steelers should double-dip at the cornerback position this year and with the draft now finally here, I hope that first dip comes Thursday night. Sure, those top three cornerbacks come with no guarantees, but in my opinion, it’s a risk that Colbert has to take. He can draft a wide receiver a round or two later. We’ll know later on this evening if the cornerback position wins out in the battle against the wide receiver position, or any other position for that matter.

  • steeltown


    After all has been said and discussed and mocked and re-mocked, its quite simple for me personally- Dennard or Fuller

  • Steelers12328882

    I think it’s going to be a CB too, unless all the other teams think the same and Gilbert, Dennard and Fuller all go before pick 15. If we have a choice between one of those three I think it’s time Tomlin goes CB in rd. 1, even if his history would suggest we go offense.

  • Wait, is the draft… tonight? It’s finally here? At long last?

    No sarcasm intended at you, Dave. Seriously, you’ve done an amazing job getting not just yourself but all of your readers and listeners ready for this. It’s just hard to believe, and I thought this when I woke up this morning, that the day has finally arrived. It seems like it’s taken forever — and it has.

    And I agree with you that CB is the way to go, though I continue to hope that somehow Benjamin falls to us in the second (unless, say, Tuitt’s around, or maybe Crichton). Ideally, of course, we trade back a bit and get Fuller, but I realize that may be hoping for too much.

    In general, I just hope the Steelers don’t overthink this too much (as the cliche goes). CB is a position is significant need, and it’s quite possible that a CB or two will be among the best players available when it’s our turn to pick.

  • Jacque Strappe

    OK. Just a thought, what if Dennard was the first round selection and Roby or Verrett was there in the 2nd round, do you take him?

  • Tullydew

    William Gay will be the only CB under contract in 2015. This will be Ike’s last year and Cortez will be a free agent (hopefully he will be extended).

    They need to get atleast 2 CB’s if not 3 of them. Getting Fuller/ Dennard in the 1st round plus adding one or two of the following (Desir/Cockrell/EJ Gaines/Colvin/S. Richardson) in rounds 3-6 is a huge necessity.

  • Tullydew

    Yes, especially if Verrett is still on the board.

  • dgh57

    Yep I agree, besides our needs at CB they’ll be a lot of WRs entering the League this year and Sammy Watkins could very well end up in Cleveland so I’ll take a double dip, if you would please, at the CB position!

  • Biggie

    I’ll take one of the top 3 CBs over the 3rd,4th, or 5th WR in Rd 1 and then go for Robinson, Matthews in Rd 2.

  • Bob Francis

    Hard to argue with you, Dave. However, while I ruled out Ebron awhile ago, I’ve recently come back around. He’s no Heath Miller, but he’s a big offensive weapon. Might he sorta “sub” for the tall WR and free up the Steelers to draft a second WR much later in the draft (if at all)? I like the idea of Brown, Wheaton, and Moore w/ Ebron, Miller, and Spaeth… and then the best among Heyward-Bey, Moye, Brown, late-round pick, and/or UDFA as the 4th and 5th WRs. It actually makes me think of the the Pats from a few years ago – a bunch of small WRs with some big weapons at TE.

  • ApexSteel

    I’m just hoping and praying that Justin Gilbert is holding a Steelers’ Jersey next to Goodell Castro by the end of the night.


    If it were me picking @ 15…Evans, Watkins, Ebron, Dennard, Fuller

    IMO…Beckham is A.Brown with a little more size…should be a good pro, but RZ production concerns me.

    If Haley would use him as a hybrid TE/WR…Ebron imo would have the most impact of any rookie I see on the board.

  • taztroy43

    Its going to come down to these guys imo…A.Donald, M.Evans, D.Dennard, K.Fuller, E.Ebron, A. Barr, J. Gilbert, B. Cooks, O. Beckham, M.Lee, in that order…..the more I look st this draft the more I want A.Donald…a guy who can disrupt from the dline is a game changer ala jj watt…yeah I know hes not prototypical for us but you make a guy of his caliber fit…after all football is football no matter if your a couple inches shorter or a few pounds lighter…if hes there hes going to be the pick…. you just don’t find too many A.Donalds(he’s an exception to prototypical)…

  • shawn

    I have to agree as well … as much as i have been wanting an athletic TE to split out for the last few years … i have to say its best to get a top CB in round 1 and one of the better WRs in this deep class in round 2 !

    I actually think we should triple dip as far as CBs go, as our hit rate has not been the greatest … ( one early, one mid and one late i.e. colvin would be my preferred method) and as you need as many quality CBs in todays game as you can get … 3/4 at a minimum to be competitive !

    Oh btw .. i prefer Gilbert, then Fuller … I would pass on Dennard ( not worth a 1st round pick in my opinion)

  • shawn

    I think Verret is definitely worth a 2nd round pick … i think he will make a very good slot CB !

  • T R

    Well i agree. I believe if we don’t get Gilbert, Dennard or Fuller in first round.. Draft will go down hill from there quick… i know that being negative but we one them top CBs this year. If not the look for 2015 draft will start early..

  • shawn

    couldn’t agree more .. i actually would like to see 3 CBs as well .. its not like we dont have the picks right !

  • cencalsteeler

    As Dave points out, the NFL is moving to more sub packages because of the current pass happy league. We were exposed and/or embarrassed by Brady and co. this past year with what positions need to be addressed. They had sling shot themselves out of the gates during free agency by going after Mitchell. The brass can not stop there as corner is their next target. I believe THAT Patriots game is instrumental in where we go with the 15 pick and it has to be shoring up the secondary.

  • Toddy Bravo

    IMO, Verrett would be worth a pick anywhere after #20 in the 1st round. I just think he’s a great, well rounded player. I wouldn’t even take Roby in the 2nd round at #46. I can’t help but wonder how a supposed shutdown corner gets absolutely torched like he did against Wisconsin.

  • Matt Manzo

    Because we need 2 CBs, I think CB is the #1 pick! I’ve heard some say it would be weird for the number one pick to have completion from another rookie but I think there’s room for two in our backfield!

  • Toddy Bravo

    If the Steelers take a CB in the 1st rd. and have a choice between these WRs in the 2nd, which one do you take, or do you even draft a different position?

    Allen Robinson
    Cody Latimer
    Kelvin Benjamin
    Jordan Matthews
    Donte Moncrief
    Davante Adams

  • Agustin-ARG

    the question is simple:
    ¿what´s the best scenario?
    ¿a top Fuller Dennard Gilbert CB in first round plus and WR with 2nd pick?
    ¿a top Beckham WR in first and a CB in 2nd?

  • James Kling

    Ike’s here, what, this year? Willie Gay is signed through 2015. Our future is Cortez Allen and who else? So yeah, bring in a top CB R1, and a developmental guy R4-5, like a Ross Cockrell type. Plenty of time to grab a WR R2, maybe even double dip with a R6-7 WR.

  • James Kling

    I think they have to retain Cortez AND draft 2 CBs. Like you said, room to bring in a third, possibly a late round flyer, maybe UDFA, but our depth is atrocious.

  • James Kling

    No to Roby, yes to Verrett. In a heartbeat.

  • James Kling


  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Same thing i been screaning for months now i hope cb first then def second then wr then cb then def then rb and everything else would be icing on the cake

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    If we go cb in rd one and dl or lb in 2 can’t we still get a good receiver in rd3

  • craig newhouser

    Matthews , Benjamin , Robinson , Adams in that order imo.