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Steelers Have New CB Listed as Starter



Pittsburgh Steelers CB Desmond King

The Pittsburgh Steelers made a few minor changes to their depth chart on Tuesday, as Desmond King was listed as a co-starter at nickelback with Chandon Sullivan. Defensive lineman Keeanu Benton was also listed as the ‘OR’ starter with DeMarvin Leal. In addition, King is listed as the starting kick returner and Calvin Austin III is listed as a starting wide receiver.

With Cam Heyward on injured reserve, Benton’s snaps have been increasing every week. Leal also struggled mightily against the Houston Texans on Sunday. Austin surpassing Gunner Olzsewski at wide receiver isn’t earth-shattering, either. The most noteworthy of the changes on the depth chart was King listed as the ‘OR’ starter with Sullivan.

Sullivan has started the first four games of the season but has recorded just six tackles and a pass deflection. He hasn’t made any splash plays. The Steelers’ secondary overall has been pretty bad this season, as they rank 32nd in yards per completion allowed. They need more from their secondary, and King could provide a spark.

King started 25 games between the 2021 and 2022 seasons in Houston, and seemed poised to start again before his unexpected release before the start of the 2023 season. Due to his late arrival, he was inactive for the first two games. He made his debut against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 3, but he didn’t play any defensive snaps. He didn’t play any defensive snaps on Sunday against on Houston, either.

It appears that Steelers defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is now comfortable with playing King.

“I think Des is working,” Austin said in the week leading up to the Texans game. “When you come from another system, there’s certain things and details that you have to get used to that may be different from where you came from. That’s really the biggest thing with him. I think he’s smart. I think he’s tough. He had a hat last week, so we’re hopefully accelerating him, keeping him going, and at some point, we’ll see him on the field.”

King, 28, played over 900 snaps for the Houston Texans in each of the last two seasons, and did it relatively well, especially in 2022, when he had an 89.2 passer rating when targeted per Pro Football Focus. He played most of his time in the slot, where he’s also a relatively solid run defender and at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, is a somewhat thicker body than Sullivan. King recorded five interceptions and 14 passes defended in his two seasons with the Texans.

A fifth-round pick of the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017, King was a contributor right away as a rookie and has played at least 15 games in each of his five NFL seasons. He earned All-Pro honors in 2018 as both a defensive back and a punt returner.