Stephon Gilmore landing spot No.2: Pittsburgh Steelers
What’s a Steel Curtain D without a true #1 corner? Although the Steelers were uncharacteristically bad overall on defense in 2021 — they yielded 6,139 yards, ranking 24th in football — the pass defense was not the major issue.
Despite the ups and downs, Pittsburgh ranked ninth in passing yards allowed, tied for the seventh-fewest TD passes allowed, tied for eighth in completion percentage yielded, allowed an average passer rating of 88.7 (ranking 11th in the league), as well as led the league with 55 sacks, according to Pro Football Reference.
The biggest deficiency for the secondary may have been in interceptions, as the Steelers’ total of 13 was a mere half of Dallas’ league-best 26.
Gilmore could help in this category. The South Carolina product has proven to be a ballhawk in his career, finishing four seasons with three or more INTs, including a league-leading six to go along with 20 pass deflections in his DPOY campaign. Even playing in only eight games last fall, Gilmore tied for a Carolina team-high with two picks.
I like this potential spot for various reasons. First off, Pittsburgh has the money to do it, coming in at 9th overall in the NFL in terms of the 2022 salary cap at north of $32 million, according to Spotrac. I also like it because he can be an upgrade for a defensive backfield that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
With aging CB Joe Haden heading to free agency, former All-Pro Minkah Fitzpatrick, Cameron Sutton, and Terrell Edmunds are all looking to bounce back from seasons where they each earned PFF grades below 60. And to add on to Haden possibly leaving, Ahkello Witherspoon and Arthur Maulet are also free agents after playing major snaps in 2021.
I also like this as a spot for Gilmore because he’d be giving help to a unit that already has an established front seven. A defensive front featuring the newly minted DPOY T.J. Watt, All-Pro Cameron Heyward, as well as youthful talents like Devin Bush Jr. and Alex Highsmith, a corner like Gilly could make their lives that much easier on the back end.