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Steelers All 90: Madre Harper Brings Work Ethic to Deep CB Room

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Steelers Madre Harper

After losing a majority of its starting secondary from the 2022 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers retooled and reloaded with a mixture of veterans and young talent. One of the young players that the team brought in was Madre Harper, who played in 12 games over his first three seasons in the NFL.

Harper originally signed with the Las Vegas Raiders as an undrafted free agent but did not see playing time until he signed with the New York Giants later that season. After playing for three different organizations, Harper was ready to play for a coach that knew how to utilize his size and abilities.

“I played a little bit [over the past three years] and did a two-year stint with the Panthers, and after me and my agent decided to leave there, we really wanted to play for a coach that really catered to what I am,” Harper said. “I know that Mike Tomlin really likes long, aggresive, hard-nosed corners. That’s really his thing, that’s really what he likes. And I just really like the organization.”

Long, “avatar” type cornerbacks are definitely becoming more common in the NFL and the Steelers are leading that charge. With cornerbacks on the roster that fit that description like Levi Wallace, and rookies Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice Jr., Harper fits right in. Standing at 6-foot-1, 196 pounds, Harper has a very similar stature to Porter who is listed at 6-foot-2, 194 pounds.

Harper also identified that the Steelers lost a lot of their depth at cornerback and believes that he can step in and immediately help out on the defense and special teams.

“We just really felt like it was a great fit, especially with Coach Grady too,” Harper said. “He’s a great DB coach, heard a lot of good things about him… And we saw a need as well. I know they’re down [defensive backs,] so I think I can come in there and help out on defense, special teams, whatever it may be.”

Haper is correct in that the Steelers lost a majority of its secondary, starting, and depth, this offseason and that he has a chance to earn himself a spot to at least contribute on special teams. He will be in direct competition with Trice, Duke Dawson, and Luq Barcoo for a roster spot but does have the playing experience over most of them.

38 • Madre Harper, Cornerback, Southern Illinois
6-foot-1, 196 pounds, 25 years old, 4th Season

Acquired: The Steelers signed Harper to a reserve/future contract on Jan. 11, 2023, after his contract with the Carolina Panthers expired.

Last seasonPrior to the 2022 season, Harper was waived by the Panthers but was re-signed to the team’s practice squad the next day. Harper spent the entire season on the practice squad and did not see any playing time on the team’s active roster.

This was the second year in a row that he failed to record a defensive snap.

Steelers Madre Harper

Madre Harper with the New York Giants from the Washington Football Team vs. New York Giants at FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland, November 8, 2020 (All-Pro Reels Photography)

CareerAfter coming out of Southern Illinois as an undrafted free agent, the Las Vegas Raiders signed Harper to a contract prior to the 2020 season. He was waived as part of the team’s final roster cuts but re-signed to the team’s practice squad the next day. He was elevated to the Raiders’ active roster prior to the team’s Week 3 game against the New England Patriots but was a healthy inactive for the game. Harper was reverted to the practice squad the next day.

Harper terminated his practice squad deal the next day in order to sign with the New York Giants. He was signed to the Giants’ active roster in October and played in his first game in Week 4 against the Los Angeles Rams. He recorded his first career tackle in Week 5 against the Washington Football Team. In total between the Raiders and Giants, Harper played 37 defensive snaps and 116 special team snaps as a rookie. He made five tackles and allowed one touchdown in coverage.

Prior to the 2021 season, Harper was waived by the Giants and then he signed back with the Raiders practice squad. He was released two weeks later and then he signed with the Panthers. Harper appeared in three games in 2021 and only played on 32 special teams snaps the entire season. After the season, Harper signed a reserve/future contract with the Panthers.

Year Team GP Snaps Tackles TDs Allowed Interceptions PBUs PFF Rating
2020 LVR/NYG 9 37, 116 (ST) 5 1 0 0 49.1
2021 LVR/CAR 3 32 (ST) 0 0 0 0
2022 CAR 0 0 0 0 0 0

CollegeHarper committed to Oklahoma State and was an early enrolee at the university as a freshman. He chose Oklahoma State over other schools including Pitt, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Northwestern. Harper appeared in 12 games as a true freshman as he mainly played on special teams and recorded eight total tackles.

In 2017, Harper only appeared in two games and recorded two tackles. He was dismissed from the team and decided to transfer to Southern Illinois University after his sophomore season.

In his first season at Southern Illinois, Harper immediately played a larger role than he ever experienced at Oklahoma State. He appeared in 10 games and started five of them. He finished the season with a career-high 46 total tackles and six passes defended. His six passes defended ranked second on the team and his 46 total tackles ranked first for any Saluki cornerbacks.

In 2019, Harper started 10 of the 11 games that he appeared in as a senior. He finished the season with 42 combined tackles, two interceptions, and 14 passes defended. His 14 passes defended ranked 17th in the nation. He recorded his first collegiate interception against the University of Massachusetts.

After two seasons at Oklahoma State and two seasons at Southern Illinois, Harper went undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Year Team GP TKLs INTs PDs
2016 OKST 12 8 0 0
2017 OKST 2 2 0 0
2018 SIU 10 46 0 6
2019 SIU 11 42 2 14

Salary cap and future: Harper is signed with the Steelers through the end of the 2023 season and will cost $940,000 against the team’s cap space if he makes the team. The Steelers are able to waive Harper and not incur any dead money if they choose to do so.

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