FRISCO, TEXAS — The Pittsburgh Steelers have a need to fill at nickel cornerback or defensive back in general. One of those solutions could come from State College. Daequan Hardy is a Pittsburgh native and played at Penn Hills. He played on the same 7-on-7 team as Mike Tomlin’s son, Dino Tomlin, and is connected to Tomlin. He’s not even sure if Mike Tomlin remembers him, but he hopes so.
“Me, Joey (Porter Jr.), Dino, we all played on the same 7-on-7 team,” Hardy said. “So, I would always be around Mike Tomlin. I had a couple of conversations with him. I don’t know if he remembers me, but I sure hope so.”
Growing up, Hardy was predictably a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. He watched his hometown team go to the playoffs and saw the emergence of another physical nickel cornerback, Mike Hilton. Playing for his hometown team would mean something different for Hardy than just any other football team, even if he wants to explore other cities around the NFL.
“It would be great,” Hardy said. “Just to be in the city. But you know, I want to explore other cities at the same time, but it’s kind of a love-hate day if I get drafted there. While I want to get outside of Pittsburgh, at the same time, that’s my hometown and that means a lot.”
Hardy was just a ball-hawking nickel cornerback. He became a dynamic punt returner in 2023, returning two to the house. His value shot up just by doing that, and he hopes to parlay that part of his game into more looks. But in reality, the aggressive kid in the slot is who he is known as now. Teams are craving more and more physical slot cornerbacks. And Hardy thinks he could be similar to Hilton.
“Since I grew up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, one of the guys we had was Mike Hilton,” Hardy said. “So, I felt like, not mimicking, but watching him do his thing. I saw myself being in that same position when I get into that same position. I just tell teams that, honestly, you can play me anywhere on the field. Play me inside, outside, in the box, on the hash, I don’t care. I’ll show out.”
And so Hardy, with five career interceptions and a natural nose for coming downhill and making plays on the football, could fit the Steelers’ secondary like a glove. The Shrine Bowl is an excellent chance for him to shoot his draft stock up while facing some talented wide receivers.
Hardy wants to show the same things he did at Penn State — playmaking, physicality, and heart. If he does that, there is little reason that he should not be a solid mid-round draft pick.