PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers entered training camp with four potential options in terms of who might be the team’s primary slot cornerback. It seems that they’ve whittled that list down to two.
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin addressed the media on Monday, and highlighted the efforts of Chandon Sullivan and Elijah Riley at the position, and he said he expects the competition between those two to continue through the preseason finale on Thursday in Atlanta.
“I think those guys are both making the case that they belong,” Austin said. “They’ve each made some plays. They’ve each shown improvement, which is what I’m really looking for. They’ve each shown improvement from Game 1 to Game 2. So we’ll see how it plays out here. I think it’s still a tight competition. It’ll go down to the wire. And we’ll see how that shakes out after this week’s game.”
Duke Dawson had been the third option at the position, but he was lost for the season to a knee injury in the first preseason game. Veteran Patrick Peterson is the fourth option, but Peterson has played just one snap in the slot so far this preseason. Peterson is the Steelers’ starting outside corner, and his availability to move inside is largely dependent on the growth of rookie second-round pick Joey Porter Jr.
Porter has been dealing with an ankle injury and made his preseason debut on Saturday, but was held to limited reps, head coach Mike Tomlin said. Porter played well in the small sample, but the Steelers don’t seem ready to hand him the reins and free up Peterson full time for slot duty just yet.
“We’ll see,” Austin said. “That was one small sample size. We’ll see if he can build on that this week and continue to do that. That’s really the key.”
The Steelers could very well end up using both Sullivan and Riley in the slot, as they’ve done in the past when Cam Sutton primarily played in passing down situations and Mike Hilton was a run-down Nickel defender. That combination, at least until Porter proves worthy of regular first-team reps, seems likely.