UNITY TWP., Pa — The Steelers knew that someone would have to step up at cornerback the moment they lost Cory Trice for the season. Seemingly pushing to make the roster and looking like he was getting there, Trice suffered a significant right knee injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season. But there is a veteran who has been on the roster that could fill that void. His name is James Pierre.
James Pierre was the team’s training camp standout in 2020. An undrafted free agent out of Florida Atlantic, he stormed onto the scene, flashing both in practice and making plays on special teams. It allowed him to craft out a role that he’s had now for the better part of three seasons. But with an overhaul in the room coming in, Pierre has to compete.
Yet, when called upon last year, to say he was impressive would be an understatement. Pierre allowed just 13 completions on 31 targets, good enough for only a 41.9% completion percentage. He was one of only nine cornerbacks to be tested more than 30 times but allow a sub-50% completion percentage on the season. One of the other players was former Steelers cornerback Cam Sutton, but Pierre making the list is impressive.
Now, at Steelers training camp, Pierre made a number of plays in his first true day stepping up without Trice. Patrick Peterson got to rest and that meant Pierre worked with some of the first-team guys and second-team guys. His first standout play was a fantastic diving pass breakup on cover 2, working as the curl flat defender and fading back to break up a go route to Dez Fitzpatrick. It was great recognition. The second play that popped was Pierre locking up Calvin Austin III on a wheel route in the combination routes period. Pierre used his length and size to his advantage, sapped the ball away from Austin, and it fell incomplete. Then, the last play he made was in the two-minute drill. On a key second down, Mitch Trubisky tried to hit Miles Boykin, but it was the quick-footed Pierre who knocked it away.
He played at a high level on Thursday. There have not been many negative plays for him this year, and they know his potential as a gunner. But with Trice going down, Pierre is going to be even more important to the team if an injury ends up happening during the year.