The Steelers have several needs in advance of the 2021 NFL Draft, and while center, running back and tackle have dominated the discussion for how the team will use its first-round pick, the Steelers also have strong need at cornerback after the departures of Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson.
In the latest mock draft from Pro Football Focus, analyst Steve Palazzolo has the Steelers addressing that need with the No. 24 overall selection by taking Florida State cornerback Asante Samuel, Jr.
“The Steelers have a few major needs to fill, and starting cornerback opposite Joe Haden is right at the top of the list along with offensive tackle and center,” Palazzolo wrote.
“Samuel is a ballhawk, especially with his eyes on the quarterback, and that’s a perfect fit for the Steelers defense. He has slot-like movement skills, but he’s at his best in a zone-heavy scheme on the outside. Samuel ranks above average in most PFF critical factors, but it’s his 97th-percentile forced incompletion percentage that is most attractive and the right fit for Pittsburgh.”
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin were at the Florida State pro day, where Samuel measured in at 5-foot-109, 180 pounds and ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash.
The Steelers have needs at both slot and outside cornerback, and Samuel feels he can do either at the next level, and that his tackling skills will be a trait that teams covet.
“It helps me a lot, being a tackling cornerback,” Samuel said. “Because on the defense, all 11 guys have to make sure they tackle. If you expect to thrive in the NFL or in college, you have to be a tackling cornerback. Just being able to make plays wherever I’m at on the field, especially in nickel or at outside cornerback. I feel like, wherever you put me on the field, I’m going to play.”
The Steelers also covet NFL bloodlines, and Samuel certainly has those. His father Asante Samuel Sr. won two Super Bowls as apart of an 11-year NFL career with the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons.