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NFL Combine

Day 2 Steelers Combine Takeaways: Top CB Targets, Key Names to Watch



Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL Draft Alabama CB Kool Aid-McKinstry

INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL Combine is upon us once again, and while athletic testing in shorts has its weaknesses, the event is massive. Between interviews, medicals, and testing, teams will learn more about players than they were just about anywhere else. On Thursday, the edge rushers, defensive linemen, and off-ball linebackers tested while defensive backs and tight ends met with the media. What about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ draft process did we learn? Here are Steelers Now’s takeaways from the day.

Alan Saunders

🏈 I don’t really love the fit for the Steelers with a lot of the best defensive linemen in this class. But man, if there is one that I’ve loved from the very beginning of the process, it’s Florida State’s Braden Fiske. If you put Cam Heyward and Aaron Smith into a blender, Fiske is the player that comes out. Or at least, so I thought. Then he went on a jet-powered 40 that left the whole NFL Combine buzzing. I don’t know where this will take Fiske’s stock, but I’m sure that if the Steelers take a defensive lineman early, my bet is on the ‘Nole.

🏈 The Steelers had a specific type of cornerback they seemed to be looking for in 2023, when they went out and got what Mike Tomlin called his “Avatar” corners Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice Jr. They later added Darius Rush, another long, physical cornerback. It seemed pretty clear what they were after.

This year, it’s different. Look at the players the Steelers are talking to:

Max Melton (6-foot, 193)
Ennis Rakestraw (6-foot, 188)
Nate Wiggins (6-foot-2, 185)
Mike Sainristil (5-foot-10, 183)
Kamari Lassiter (6-foot, 180)
Terrion Arnold (6-foot, 196)
Kool-Aid McKinstry (6-foot-1, 194)
Cooper DeJean (6-foot-1, 207)

There’s a lot of shorter players on that list. Several of them have slot or safety versatility. It seems like the Steelers are looking to complement their big corners with a quick corner this time around. Remember that when the DBs run Friday night.

Nick Farabaugh

🏈 The Steelers have a clear, invested interest in big, hulking defensive linemen. That became clear when they met with guys like Ruke Orhorhoro, Byron Murphy, and others. But more than that, it seems like they want someone with outstanding athleticism who can stand out as a pass rusher. So, think of guys like Michael Hall, Braden Fiske, and those listed above as definitive options for the team. Those guys just fit that mold, and the team needs some insurance in that area. They will have multiple free agents and Larry Ogunjobi and Cam Heyward are not getting any younger.

🏈The Steelers have met with so many cornerbacks that it is not surprising, but the guys they have met with all exemplify slot cornerback archetypes. It seems clear to me this team is going to address that positon early in the class, and rightfully so. Not just that, they seem to be targeting guys who would profile as freak athletes at the position. This is a secondary that badly needs athleticism on the back half, and as Alan noted above, those slot types feel like the right type of target for this team in 2024.

Derrick Bell

🏈With how loaded this cornerback class looked on tape, it’s encouraging, but not surprising, that they have met with so many of the groups best players thus far. Alabama’s Terrion Arnold’s infectious energy at the podium, combined with his tape and athletic profile, have me fully convinced that he’s going very early. Clemson’s Nate Wiggins stated that he ran a 4.27 40-yard dash while training for the event and if you’ve watched him play, the explosiveness and long speed defintely stand out. It was a bit shocking to me that the team hasn’t yet met with Toledo CB Quinyon Mitchell, although that could soon change. Pro Days matter a lot for potential first round picks but the formal visits have been a big indicator in recent seasons as well.

🏈Minnesota’s Tyler Nubin is the most clean safety prospect in this class for my money. That guy just looks like a pro and if they want to invest in a long-term running mate for Minkah Fitzpatrick, he would be the ideal candidate if the value lines up. The formal meeting that caught me off guard the most yesterday was Calen Bullock from USC. He has the range and ball skills that teams fawn over in the post but I question what other value he provides aside from that. The Trojan defender doesn’t often look enthused about tackling and when he attempts to, the results aren’t great. Over the next couple months, I hope that we are given clues on how the Steelers plan to deploy Fitzpatrick next season, whether transitioning him back to the deep part of the field or if he continues to play near the line of scrimmage. The former would be my preference but I’m anxious to see if they feel the same way.