Bengals Have Taken Opposite Approach As Steelers To CB Position

If there is any one team in the league that is virtually the polar opposite of the Pittsburgh Steelers when it comes to evaluating, valuing, and drafting for the cornerback position, it would have to be their division rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals.

Over the course of the past 10 draft classes leading into next week, the Bengals have used their top selection in the first round on a cornerback a total of four times. By way of comparison, the Steelers have drafted fewer than four cornerbacks in the top three rounds of the draft in that same span of time, including Senquez Golson in the second round last season, the other two being third-round picks.

You would have to go back almost 20 years to get to Chad Scott, whom the Steelers drafted with the 24th overall selection in the 1997 NFL Draft, who played 11 seasons, nine in Pittsburgh, recording a total of 21 interceptions in his career.

Even first-round picks have the potential to bust, of course, with the cornerback position particularly vulnerable, but the Bengals certainly did well with Johnathan Joseph with the 24th overall pick in 2006. Though he only played five seasons in Cincinnati—he signed a big free agent contract with the Texans—Joseph has been a good player for a long time, with 26 interceptions and 151 pass breakups to his name.

Leon Hall was added just the next year, and has played his entire career with the Bengals, although that appears to be coming to an end this year, as he has yet to be re-signed, and injuries have taken their toll on his abilities.  For a while, however, he and Joseph made quite a pairing, and Hall also has 26 interceptions to his name, along with 111 passes defensed.

The Bengals have revisited the double-dip approach recently, adding Dre Kirkpatrick with their first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, and then going back two years later to draft Darqueze Dennard—a player that many believed the Steelers themselves would draft, but he slid nine spots further to Cincinnati.

Kirkpatrick and Dennard are yet to even sniff the sort of success that Joseph and Hall once had. Kirkpatrick finally cracked the starting lineup last season, starting 15 games, making 63 tackles and recording 16 passes defensed, but he failed to intercept a pass. He did, however, intercept three passes in each of the prior two seasons.

As for Dennard, he had a fairly quite rookie season in 2014, limited mostly to special teams, but he began to see more playing time on defense last year, and even started in the 10th game of the season, but it happened to be the same game in which he injured his shoulder and landed on injured reserve.

It will be interesting to see what role is in store for Dennard this season, and how he performs, particularly given how many individuals wanted to tie him to the Steelers during that draft class. In the meantime, Pittsburgh might finally revisit the position in the first round this year, although recent history is not exact in support of that notion.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • D.j. Hoy

    I wanted Dennard and Eifert to be Steelers so bad. If Dalton keeps progressing, they will be a damn good team.

  • Steel PAul

    Every team needs good corners who can make a play on the ball and break up passes.

    The Steelers philosophy is off here. Too many balls being thrown to not fill these spots with playmakers.

    Another team that took a different approach, but ultimately built a strong secondary, is the SB Champion Broncos.

  • Joseph Duffy

    I wanted Dennard too but so far he hasn’t done anything.

  • STEELERS-FAN-IN-AZ

    Who the Steelers made average I think Denver s front 7 had more to with their run and in turn made their secondary better. If you remember the Steelers did a good job protecting Ben.the passing game put good numbers.but that said the secondary and front 7 have to compliment each other

  • STEELERS-FAN-IN-AZ

    Don’t forget many wanted Gilbert also

  • Hypo Cycloid

    I don’t have a problem with this. But now that the Steelers don’t have pressing needs at every position, they need to start really addressing the DB’s. I really feel that Cincy did great with Joseph and Hall, but also feel that Denard is going to be a bust and Kirkpatrick wasn’t worth a 1st round pick either. I didn’t like Kirkpatrick in the 1st place. He is too frail. Not exactly a good tackler and isn’t special in coverage. So a bust as far as 1st round is concerned. Cincy’s secondary is going to suffer this season, especially with a couple key losses in the secondary including Nelson.

  • STEELERS-FAN-IN-AZ

    How do this year’s corners stack up to the past few years 1st rounders? . Would they still be 1st rounders? If the answer is no don’t reach for one granted you can only select from what’s available.

  • Dorian James

    This is why the secondary is always the weakest part of our team

  • RickM

    Some argue that 1st round CB’s provide no guarantees. Others argue that the likelihood of finding a good one in the 1st round is much higher. Both sides are of course right, as the article shows through a division rival. I just look at this as the last 10 CB’s drafted by the Steelers provided no production whatsoever to the team in 2015. And none of those CB’s was selected in the first round.

    Yes, Lewis was with another team and Golson was hurt. It’s still 0-8 in terms of any production. Something has to change and if that means drafting a 1st-round CB for the first time in two decades, just do it. And if after 12 pre-draft CB visits and a 1st-round draft pick they still get the CB position wrong, the scouting system for this positional area needs to be completely overhauled – whatever that entails.

  • Ike Evans

    Hargraves……the rest i doubt it

  • Ike Evans

    Whats a bengal?

  • Brian Miller

    Front 7 is excellent, and I was pissed when we didn’t draft Wolfe, but they have a shut down corner in Talib, plus a couple of good, draft CB’s, plus the S they got in FA from Cleveland, so they have a lot of talent there too.

  • Brian Miller

    I am pretty sure Steeler fans don’t expect to draft 4 round 1 CB’s over 10 years, but good lord at least TRY to draft better CB’s, that is all we ask! Can it really be as simple as they will never want to pick up a 2nd contract with a 1st round CB? I understand they value S and DL and OLB positions more, but it gets a little ridiculous.

  • thomas hmmmm

    It’s going to be a very interesting preseason for the Bungles and the QB competition between Dalton and McCarron.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Wasn’t always.. It was great with Clark, Troy, Ike…

  • thomas hmmmm

    I wonder who is to blame for the secondary failures. Whether it be the scouts, positional coach or DC and HC..
    Who ever is making those calls needs to keep thier opinion to themselves and go back and see which of those people made the correct assessments and listen to that person on which CB to draft.

  • cencalsteeler

    The Steelers rank lbs highest on their draft order and then build around them. They grab corners in the mid rounds with the philosophy of them being first round picks if they were an inch or two taller. It’s hard not to think this will continue as we have a pass rushing void. Olb in round 1. Safety in round 2. Corners afterwards…. (Colbert said the corner class was deep).

  • RickM

    That is of course the best and most unknown question. Whoever has been making the calls on receivers has done a brilliant job in my opinion. It’s the exact opposite in this area. I really can’t explain or understand it.

  • WreckIess

    It’s all a matter of philosophy. They play some cover 3, but they also play a lot more man coverage than we do so they need to draft corners early to help that cause. We rely heavily on the guys in the front 7 to get to the QB over trying to find shot down corners which obviously makes CBs less of a priority.

    Both have worked so you can’t really say one works and one doesn’t, but It’s definitely not lost on me that 3 of the 4 conference championship teams were top 10 in sacks or that 9 of the top 10 teams with the most sacks were playoff teams. It doesn’t matter how well you can cover if you can’t actually get to the QB. Sooner or later someone will get open.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Yea, it really makes me want to lay blame at the positional coach’s door.
    Mann works wonders with whoever he is given.
    Mitchell does also, although lately he has had several high picks to work with.
    Butler always did great with the LB’s.
    I just wonder how much slack Lake is going to get before the blame falls to him.

  • RickM

    I think Matthew actually raised a good point on this one. How many of the failed DB choices went elsewhere and performed well? None really, so I’m not sure it’s coaching. And the Steelers/Lake did develop Lewis. i think it’s more bad evaluations and selections on draft day. My biggest criticism of Lake is his input into the draft process. I guarantee you that no draft choice is made without sign-off by the respective positional coach, and Lake has signed off on a lot of bad picks. I think his eye for college talent is poor based on the drafting record.

  • mem359

    With the Bengals putting an emphasis on 1st round CBs and usually picking ahead of the Steelers, that depletes the talent pool the Steelers could pick from.

  • PapaJuju

    They can afford that defense because they don’t have a QB to pay 20 million a year to in cap space.

  • Ray Powell

    It may not be as simple as ‘just do it’ when it comes to drafting a CB in the first round. What if Ramsey, Hargreaves, Apple and Jackson are all off the board? Do you really want them to reach just so they’ve picked a corner in the first round? It’s a deep class this year, so if they don’t get one in the first, they should do in the second or even third. I’d rather have that than reach for one in the first and maybe miss out on a great player at, say, defensive tackle.

  • Ray Powell

    Bear in mind as well that most of the draft choices of defensive backs in the last decade have been in the fourth round or later. Only two exceptions to that, Keenan Lewis, a good player who left in free agency and Curtis Brown, who’s the only real bust at this position. So I’d say the issue has largely been priorities rather than evaluation, something that was rectified last year by the selection of Golson, the highest pick of a DB since Anthony Smith in 2006. We’ll see how he gets on (and Grant, for that matter). To be fair to Lake, he hasn’t been given so much to work with until last year.

  • RickM

    The point of the comment was that there seems to have been a two-decade-long team philosophy that the CB position is not worthy of a 1st-round pick. There had not even been a 2nd-round CB pick for a decade until Golson was selected in 2015. If they need to further broaden their philosophy at the CB position to the 1st-round, just do it. I think we both have enough faith in the Steelers to evaluate whether a 1st-round CB that they like is still on the board.

  • popsiclesticks

    Remove Von Miller and that team is not a SB champion. Remove any of the corners and I think they could still get there.

  • popsiclesticks

    They did, though. Harris being an undrafted FA is what really helps.

  • PapaJuju

    No, they can keep the defense together because they don’t have to pay a QB. They didn’t win a SB with superior QB. They won with a superior D.

  • Tedium cha

    I live in Cincinnati. I see the bengals and bengals coverage constantly. In my opinion this is why we beat them consistently. Our front 7 on both sides of the ball beat theirs. Look at our games against them. We’re running the ball and running it well. Whether that’s Bell or Williams or Fitz it doesn’t matter because our investment is on the front lines both ways (Heyward, Pouncy, Decastro, Tuitt, etc). On defense they struggle running against us. They’re drafting strategy is the main reason I’m more confident when we play them than the Ravens.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Yea I know, that I believe is the only reason why Lake is still the Secondary Coach..
    Regardless though of draft position, the other coaches have still made players into above average starters from late round draft picks and UDFA’s.

    I am not expecting to have the best CB’s in the league, but at least put an average player out there that can tackle and knows his responsibilities.

  • thomas hmmmm

    LOL Then I believe we have answered the question of who needs to be kicked out of the draft room and whose input needs to be ignored.

  • Craig M

    But the Steelers depend more on the up front rush to increase the stats of the DB performance, we don’t need great just good to really good.

  • Steel PAul

    Clearly the rush was their strength. But for awhile now, we’ve been hearing the Steelers FO talk about how having a good front seven negates the need for a strong secondary. Thus the later round picks on the defensive backfield.

    My point is, even a team that had a great rush saw the value in fielding a strong 3-CB group. And in the end, they’re the champs.

  • popsiclesticks

    Yes, that’s true, but one of those dudes was an undrafted FA and didn’t become great until the other two were in place. Harris is an absolute bonus. When Roby was taken they had big money Talib about to play his first year and some guy who they liked but I doubt thought, this dude is going to be a top 5 NFL CB.

    It’s always better to have a lot of good players.

    Hell, Chris Harris got a 2nd round UFA tender. Nobody thought he was awesome before 2014.

  • popsiclesticks

    They’ve already lost two guys from that defense to high-paying deals. We’ll see if they can afford Roby.

  • RickM

    Lol, if he is the final decision maker, yes. But my guess is that it could just as easily be Tomlin or the Head of Scouting who makes the final call as to what CB’s interest them most. Given his background, I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that no CB is drafted without Tomlin’s blessing. So if I had to guess at who the ultimate power player is in terms of decisions for this positional area, my money would be on him. But I really don’t care who’s made past mistakes. Let’s just do the best to get the sub-standard secondary drafting turned around.

  • Dorian James

    I’ll give you that. However, the passing game is advanced now, so we should probably value the CB a bit more than we do

  • STEELERS-FAN-IN-AZ

    Von wants QB money reports/rumors 20-25 mil/yr

  • STEELERS-FAN-IN-AZ

    What is a Brown=Orange?
    At least a Bengal is well…..tigerish

  • Ray Powell

    Well, the pre-draft visits would seem to back that up and the secondary is the major weakness in the team. They’ve certainly tried to get away with finding another Ike Taylor or Deshea Townsend in the later rounds and it just hasn’t worked. I reckon it’ll either be cornerback or defensive tackle in the first, depending on what happens and who the BPA is in those positions. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came out of the first round without a CB, but astonished if they came out of the first three without one.

  • Ray Powell

    I still think the biggest problem last year was the persistence in starting a guy who was injured and playing poorly. I think that, even before the draft, the Steelers starting CBs right now would be better than they were last season.

  • STEELERS-FAN-IN-AZ

    Has anyone seen Lou Riddick’s latest mock maybe he’s trying to be different 5 1st rd QB’s Hargraves picked a 30 Stanley over tunsil ahh see for yourselves

  • RickM

    I’m pretty confident that their current plan is to use two of the first three picks for CB and Safety, although any plans can be disrupted by how the board falls as you point out. The needs are significant, the visits are many and the orders from the boss are to fix it. I just can’t see them waiting until the 4th round to address either of these two positions.

  • thomas hmmmm

    It’s only been since 2011 and 2012 since the last time the Steelers finished #1 in passing D.. It hasn’t been that long for the game to advance that much.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Yea last season was a weird season as far as the secondary goes. You had Golden who started the AZ, which was the best offense at that time, and we shut them down, who looked much better and more explosive than Allen sitting behind Allen.
    Boykin situation was just huh? No explanation for that. I agree that the secondary is/will be better this season. Mainly because Golden will be starting over Allen.

  • justafanlikeyou

    The Steelers have 18 more wins than the Bengals over the last 10 years. I’ll take the Steeler’s philosophy.
    Finishing better each year also forced the Steelers to draft later than the Bengals.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Personally, I don’t think the cornerbacks that will be available at 25 are truly first-round talents in a strong draft.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Well, they did spent 2nd- and 4th-round picks on the position just last year.

  • Steel PAul

    It’s great when an UFA can even start, much less be at Harris’ level, but the point is still the same. They have VERY good corners on that D, even tho they have a monster front.

    Steelers have neither.

  • John Phillips

    Neither? Steelers have a pretty good front seven, that should continue to develop into a great front seven.

  • Steel PAul

    I mean.. Tuitt and Cam are excellent. Timmons may be slowing down but he’s also very solid. That’s three.

    Shazier and Dupree may or may not become good/great.

    Sorry to be contrarian, but that’s not close to having a great front seven.

  • John Phillips

    literally what i said: good, if they continue to develop, great. You also forgot solid contributions from both Vince Williams and the ageless Harrison. I personally still think Jones and McCullers will also continue to develop.