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2024 NFL Draft

Steelers Draft Profile: Battle-Tested Pitt CB M.J. Devonshire Brings Big-Play Ability



Pittsburgh Steelers 2024 NFL Draft Target M.J. Devonshire
Pittsburgh Panthers defensive back M.J. Devonshire (12) September 24, 2022 David Hague/PSN

FRISCO, Texas — It didn’t take much time for former Aliquippa High School cornerback M.J. Devonshire to figure out he wanted to come home and play at Pitt after deciding to transfer from Kentucky, but once he arrived, it was like he stepped directly out of the frying pan and into the fire.

He found himself matched up an awful lot with an eventual Biletnikoff Award winner and first round NFL Draft pick in the slot right away.

Pitt desperately wanted Devonshire, who had chosen Kentucky over Pitt just two years prior, because of his defensive versatility. He’s a natural cornerback, but he has the smooth fluidity and (added aggressiveness now) that allows him to play both corner and safety. And when he first arrived at Pitt in the winter of 2021, he played some field safety and some slot corner. And that meant a steady dose of Jordan Addison.

“That whole spring I was out there, and it was me and Jordan Addison one-on-one, and he ended up going on to win the Biletnikoff, so it ultimately made me better and helped me sharpen the tools that I’m going to need this week and going forward,” Devonshire told Steelers Now at the Shrine Bowl in Frisco, Texas.

It was that experience matching up with Addison, which goes hand-in-hand with his three seasons playing on an island (lots of press, man coverage) at Pitt, that helped him stand out at the Shrine Bowl last month.


“I definitely feel like (playing in the Pitt defensive system) will be an advantage for me,” Devonshire said. “I embraced it, I loved it, it let me showcase the skills that I have and it was great being in that system every day and competing in that system.

“Just being hands-on and being physical at the line of scrimmage, I learned at a young age, the more you can control and win at the line of scrimmage, the better you’ll be in the whole aspect of route running as a receiver. I learned that get my hands on, trusting my technique and staying square, staying patient and trusting my speed, I was gonna win a lot more battles than I lost.”

It wasn’t the easiest season for Devonshire in 2023. To say it wasn’t an easy season for Pitt would be putting it lightly. But Devonshire battled through adversity, stepped up as a leader in the locker room and continued to do what he’s done his entire career as a Panther. Produce.

He finished the 2023 season with 32 tackles (18 solo), 0.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and 10 pass breakups. He was a workhorse in 2023, taking a team-high 662 defensive snaps, and according to PFF, he allowed just a 47.4 completion percentage when targeted by opposing quarterbacks.

And on the night that Darrelle Revis returned to Pittsburgh to be inducted into the Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame, serving as an honorary captain before the Louisville game, Devonshire showed up in a major upset win.

Louisville quarterback Jack Plummer targeted Devonshire 14 times Saturday night. 14. And Devonshire allowed just four completions for 34 yards, broke up five pass attempts and picked off Plummer once. It was a pretty impactful interception, too.

In his Pitt career, after playing his first two seasons at Kentucky, he finished with 83 tackles (51 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, eight interceptions (three returned for touchdowns) and 21 pass breakups. And he was an All-ACC punt returner in 2022.

It wasn’t a particularly hard decision to come home. Pat Narduzzi was on him immediately. He matter-of-factly told Devonshire that he was in the portal back in 2020. Devonshire just laughed, told him that he had just entered and was looking for a new home. “How would you feel about coming home?” Narduzzi asked him. The intent was obvious, but Narduzzi told him to take his time.

“And then like, he sent me a picture of me in high school and he was like, ‘You remember this?’ And I had told him in high school, I wanted to win the Heisman. And it was me in high school, standing on the Heisman Trophy. He was like, ‘You remember when you told me this?’ And I was like, ‘Man, he remembered this from two years ago. All the kids he’s recruited from the time he recruited me until now,’ and that lets you know the kind of guy he is and the kind of guys at Pitt.”

It was in the midst of COVID-19, so there wasn’t a chance to meet in person (not that Devonshire really needed it), but he hopped on Zoom with the Pitt coaches. And after the call, Devonshire told his mom that he wanted to go to Pitt.

It was a business decision, of course, but it was also the chance to come home. He rode home from games with his mother and father, was able to be back home for Aliquippa games on Friday nights and served as a shining example of a “hometown hero” in Pittsburgh.

Aliquippa is known for producing Hall of Famers, a record three Hall of Famers coming out of the high school, and Devonshire was at the enshrinement of two of them — Revis and Ty Law. Law, who went to Michigan, wanted Devonshire to follow in his footsteps. Revis, who went to Pitt, served as an inspiration every step of the way.

Devonshire wanted so badly to be the next great out of Aliquippa. He starred with the Quips, he starred with the Panthers and now he’s in line to be the latest Quip selected in the NFL Draft.

It remains to be seen where exactly he’ll end up, but he has the pedigree, resume and measurables that NFL teams value. With a strong NFL Combine, his stock could soar. And it won’t hurt to spend more time with NFL personnel — not just Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

“(Tomlin and I) talk,” Devonshire said. “Oftentimes I ask him how’s Dino (Tomlin) doing, how’s the family? He asks about my mom, she’s a Steelers fans and was so excited to meet him. When I was younger and playing in 7-on-7, he’d always ask how my mom was doing and just a great guy. Regardless of football, if I was a doctor at Pitt, he’d still ask me the same questions. So, just having that connection and knowing that me and Dino compete all the time, he asks how we doing and stuff like that.”

So, of course, Devonshire would definitely like to play for the Steelers. He’d welcome the opportunity to play for any NFL team, but there’s something special about Pittsburgh.

“Obviously special to play in any NFL organization, but to be at home, all my family are still Steeler fans and my granddad is a Steeler fan,” Devonshire said. “So, being able to play able to play for the Steelers and knowing how many people would be excited is cool.”

It was a short three seasons at Pitt but a very memorable three seasons. It’s the place he’s called home for all but two years of his life. He’ll never forget the highs or the lows of his journey in Pittsburgh — at all levels.

“Shoutout to Kenny (Pickett) helping us get that ACC and his fake slide,” Devonshire said. “That ACC championship, that was amazing. I’ve been taught winning championships is most important since I was young, so my first year at Pitt winning a championship became a standard and every day from there, we worked to win a championship. And in the Backyard Brawl and me having that play is crazy.”

Devonshire will forever be remembered for his game-winning pick-six in the revival of the Backyard Brawl, but he’s hoping to make a few more memories in the NFL before all is said and done.

He’ll be thrown directly into the fire upon reaching the NFL level, but he’s ready for it. Pitt prepared him for it from the day he arrived.

Nick Farabaugh provided reporting from Frisco.


Measured at the 2024 NFL Combine: Devonshire isn’t the biggest cornerback, measuring in at 5-foot-10 3/4, 186 pounds in Indianapolis, but he measured and tested very, very well. His arms measured in at 32 7/8 inches while his wingspan was the most notable thing about him at a long 78 3/4 inches.

In the on-field drills, Devonshire performed well as he ran a 4.45 40-yard dash, 1.54-second split, 4.35-second shuttle, and 7.12-second 3-cone. In his jumping workouts, Devonshire leaped to a 38 1/2-inch vertical and a 10-foot-4 broad jump.


Devonshire’s stock has been all over the place, from the edge of the third round to off the bottom of the charts as an undrafted free agent. His current ranking at NFL Mock Draft Database has him at 226th overall in the seventh round.

M.J. Devonshire


Devonshire does not fit the mold that the Steelers currently seem to be prioritizing at outside cornerback, but that doesn’t mean he can’t fit with the team.

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