PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have a glaring need to figure out their cornerback position, but their answers, for now, might not be the answers for later.
Cameron Sutton remains the favorite to start at slot cornerback this season, but he'll also play most of his time on the outside. While the Steelers look for a suitable replacement on the inside, they're also keeping an eye on their options behind Sutton to play opposite of Joe Haden.
Of those options, James Pierre stands atop the crowd.
"He's big, he's long, he runs. I think the biggest thing that really stood out from James from last year was how hard he competed, his interest in, 'what can I do to get better?' and taking what he was told and applying it. That was really unique for a young guy, especially with no offseason."
Pierre came to Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent out of Florida Atlantic. In 2020, he played in 16 games as a special teamer and contributed 27 snaps on defense.
"I don't know what everybody missed, and I don't know what we missed because we're part of that group, we just happened to get him as a free agent," Austin said. "We got lucky that way.
"... I know he's sat down with me a couple times, and I've said, 'James, listen. You're not going to make this team as a corner right off the bat. You're going to make this team because you do great on special teams, so you better be Danny [Smith]'s best friend. Then, work on your craft as a DB, because you'll have an opportunity to work on it while you're being a good special teams player, and he did that. And all that stuff is coming to fruition for him."
Pierre is working with third-year corner Justin Layne as the team's depth on the outside. Maybe neither will start this season, but that doesn't leave them out of the Steelers' plans for both now and the future.
"He's still developing. This is his first offseason," Austin said. "I think there'll be a good jump with him and I'm hoping we've all of a sudden found ourselves a big corner for the future."
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