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What Does Art Maulet Release Say about Steelers Defensive Plans?



Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Arthur Maulet (35) celebrates after a play during an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2022, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)

The Pittsburgh Steelers will release veteran slot cornerback Arthur Maulet, NFL Network on Wednesday, nearly completing a massive makeover of the team’s secondary from 2022 to 2023.

The Steelers and Maulet had a “difference of opinion” about his contract, according to Cameron Wolfe of NFL Network, and he requested his release.

“I’m very thankful for everything but I won’t sell my soul [or] change what I believe in,” Maulet wrote on Instagram.

A source close to the situation told Steelers Now that Maulet had been under the impression that despite signing a two-year contract in 2022, he would either be extended or released after the first season of the deal.

It does not seem like the Steelers had Maulet in their long-term plans at the position after adding free agents Patrick Peterson and Chandon Sullivan and selecting Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice in the 2023 NFL Draft.

But Maulet played a whole lot of football for the Steelers in 2022 — 418 snaps or 45% of the team’s defensive plays.

The club already signed Chandon Sullivan as a slot cornerback, but he was expected to be more of a replacement for Cam Sutton’s role as a coverage-first inside player. Sutton about 280 snaps in the slot last season, mostly on passing downs.

Those will almost certainly pass to Sullivan now, along with some of Maulet’s run-down work. But the rest of that will probably be absorbed by the Steelers using even more of their three-safety Heavy Nickel package.

The team debuted that look in training camp last year, putting Damontae Kazee, Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick all on the field at the same time. But Kazee’s preseason broken arm and minor injuries to both Edmunds and Fitzpatrick delayed its deployment to midseason.

This season, Keanu Neal is replacing Edmunds as more of a pure in-the-box option at safety. In fact, Neal spent one season playing linebacker. So its seems likely that he will get a good deal of those early-down slot reps, with Kazee playing with Fitzpatrick on the back end.

The Steelers also seem to have a logjam when it comes to outside corners, where Peterson, Porter and Trice will join incumbents Ahkello Witherspoon, Levi Wallace and James Pierre. The club could look to try one or more of those players on the inside to see how they fit.