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New Standout Cornerback Option Hits Market for Steelers

Darious Williams could be an option that the Pittsburgh Steelers would want to land in free agency.



Steelers WR George Pickens
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive back Darious Williams gets his hands on a ball intended for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens on Oct. 29, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers want to upgrade their secondary. This is not a secret but something the team has disclosed throughout the process at different points. And it makes sense, as the team allowed too many explosive plays on the back end due to a lack of speed. While they have young pieces that mesh well together, they still need to round out their other cornerback spots and upgrade at safety.

When the Jaguars released cornerback Darious Williams, an option for the Steelers to upgrade their secondary immediately became available. Despite being just 5-foot-9 and surviving at outside cornerback for nearly his entire career, the 30-year-old Williams is a ballhawk and has proven he can stick out there. He had four interceptions last season and nine pass deflections, which is solid ball production.

Of course, at that size, the run defense part of his game will always be a question, which could be something that deters the Steelers from Williams in general. But his sticky man coverage and zone coverage skills stick out, and even at 30, he has not lost a step speed-wise. Is it a long-term fix or a deterrent against selecting a cornerback in the 2024 NFL Draft? No. But he upgrades the secondary and gives them another serviceable player for this season. That is something Pittsburgh sorely lacks in the secondary.

It becomes even more of a key to watch when you consider Patrick Peterson anything but a guarantee to return to the team in 2024.

Peterson did say that he was willing to do everything except sit on the bench in a glorified coaching role. If the team has a role envisioned for him, he wants it.

“You know I want to (keep playing). The question is if the Steelers want me to finish with them,” Peterson said on the All Things Covered Podcast. “Me and Coach Tomlin had a great conversation after the season. Obviously, I know that you have to go through your evaluations in the draft and free agency and things like that, but for me, what I was able to do in Year 13 playing different positions, coming into a new environment. I felt my season was very successful playing 97 percent of my snaps…As you saw this year, I’m open to playing wherever, whenever. Wherever I can be to help the team, I’m all for it. Except for the bench.”

Williams could fill that void, especially if Peterson leaves, on the outside across from Joey Porter Jr. He allowed just 59 percent of targets his way to be completed. That’s despite a high volume of targets since teams tested him all season. But Williams has stood tall throughout his career and has proven to be a winning player with the Jaguars, but especially the Los Angeles Rams as someone who has fantastic coverage instincts and technique.

Peterson is the only veteran cornerback under contract heading into the 2024 season. Levi Wallace, James Pierre, and Chandon Sullivan are all free agents. Meanwhile, Cory Trice, Darius Rush, and Joey Porter Jr. create plenty of young depth, but they will need some veterans to guide them. The team will likely add in the NFL Draft given how deep this cornerback class is, too, but their decision on Peterson will decide just how urgent their needs are at cornerback in free agency and the NFL Draft. Williams could be the first part of that solution.