College football season is upon us, and with that, the start of draft evaluations will start for teams, who will send their scouts out to games to evaluate players. The Steelers already sent a scout to watch Utah-Florida this past Thursday, and they will undoubtedly see more players on Saturday as the scouts travel around the country.
Here at Steelers Now, we will not cover the NFL Draft until after the season, with things such as the Senior Bowl ramping up in late January. Still, until then, during college football season, I want to bring one prospect every Saturday that fits what Pittsburgh likes at a macro view to acclimate some people to those players. The first player is a talented cornerback out of TCU, Josh Newton.
Newton comes into the season as the next big cornerback out of TCU. Newton comes in a different mold in a growing line of productive defensive backs. Listed at 6-foot, 190 pounds, Newton has some severe length that he brings to the table. From a baseline athletic standpoint, the physical tools in a straight-line sense are all there for Newton. Newton’s agility and long speed stand out significantly on film. When he goes to the NFL Combine, there is little doubt that Newton will test exceptionally well.
A senior, this is the type of player that the Steelers could fall in love with from a scouting standpoint. Newton will likely be at the all-star games, such as the Senior Bowl, for Mike Tomlin and staff to evaluate up close and personal. But if the team’s reported interest in Deonte Banks and Christian Gonzalez was as genuine as it may have been in this past cycle, Newton should be firmly on their radar in 2024.
Levi Wallace is a free agent, and Patrick Peterson will only be another year older. Joey Porter Jr. will hopefully be a vital part of the team’s future. Meanwhile, Cory Trice will be coming off a severe knee injury. Cornerback is looking like a significant need for Pittsburgh in 2024. But if the Steelers want to run a lot of press coverage with athletic cornerbacks, Newton checks those boxes. He can use his length, get up on the line, and run guys out of the picture.
But he has all the man coverage skills that a defensive coordinator could dream of having in a cornerback. The ball skills seem to be there, too, as Newton did grab three interceptions a year ago. As a pure man coverage cornerback, Newton checks those boxes. He is willing to get dirty in the run game, too.
The traits and schematic world the Steelers seem to be moving towards match what Newton does well. If he puts together another strong season, Newton will be in the first-round conversation very quickly. A test against Colorado in TCU’s first game of the season and their athletic receivers will be a good barometer to start the season for Newton.