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Steelers Analysis

K’Waun Williams Becomes Slot Cornerback Option for Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to add in the secondary and K’Waun Williams could end up being a fascinating fit.



Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent Target K'Waun Williams
Denver Broncos cornerback K'Waun Williams (21) celebrates after an interception during an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano)

The Pittsburgh Steelers are setting themselves up to make some splash moves in the secondary after releasing Patrick Peterson and Keanu Neal. By doing so, they made holes at safety, slot cornerback, and outside cornerback, and with Levi Wallace, Chandon Sullivan, and James Pierre free agents, the team will have to make acquisitions in the secondary a priority.

Enter in possible slot cornerback options that make sense. Players like Avonte Maddox, Kenny Moore, and others are available. However, veteran slot cornerback K’Waun Williams, who the Denver Broncos will likely let walk, could also make sense for the team. He missed all of 2023 with an injury, but when he last played, Williams was a rock-solid slot cornerback who provided feistiness.

This has proven to be the biggest hurdle for Williams in his career. He played at Pitt, so there’s some Pittsburgh familiarity there, but the injuries have held Williams back throughout his career. But he is one of the better slot cornerbacks around when he is out there. Certainly, Williams has proven himself as underrated in his role.

With sticky-man coverage skills, Williams is fluid and competitive at the catch point. He is not a huge ballhawk with only five career interceptions, but he has forced 11 fumbles. Williams finds ball production in a variety of ways over the football field and the Steelers are opportunistic at creating those plays in any way they can seem to find.

Peterson was a productive player for the Steelers in 2023, appearing in 97% of the team’s defensive snaps, while playing outside cornerback, slot cornerback and safety. But his elevated cap hit heading into his 34-year-old season was likely a concern for the Steelers. Slot cornerbacks and safeties, which is where Peterson projects to spend more of his time going forward, don’t make as much as outside cornerbacks, and the safety free agent market is historically deep this offseason.

But the slot cornerback market in the NFL Draft and free agency has some deep names, too. And Williams makes more sense than most other names, given his ability to cover slot receivers over the middle of the field, something that the team has struggled with over the last few years. If he can stay healthy, Williams could be the type of cheap addition to the secondary that would pay major dividends in the short-term for the Steelers.