Many a shoe was thrown against a wall Thursday night when the Pittsburgh Steelers passed on cornerback Darqueze Dennard and chose Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
And when Dennard went to the hated Cincinnati Bengals at 24, those shoe-chucking Steelers fans threw their other shoe against the wall.
Ike Taylor just turned 34 and is on the decline, and there’s little depth behind Cortez Allen and William Gay. The Steelers were 28th in the NFL with 20 takeaways last season. They also had 20 takeaways in 2012 and were 25th in the league. In 2011, they were last with 15 takeaways. No Steelers cornerback has intercepted more than two passes in a season since Taylor intercepted three in 2007.
Cornerback appeared to be the Steelers’ top need in the draft. Instead, the Steelers bolstered their inside linebacker corps. That was another need in this draft, but few expected the Steelers to fill it in the first round.
Fans clamoring for a cornerback will have to stay up late on Day 2 of the draft if they want to see the Steelers take one, because none of the corners left are worth taking with the 14th pick in the second round. Dennard, Justin Gilbert, Kyle Fuller, Jason Verrett and Bradley Roby are all off the board. After the top five, there’s a Duquesne Incline-like drop-off.
With the No. 46 overall pick, the Steelers would be better off adding much-needed bodies on the defensive line with a player like Louis Nix or Stephon Tuitt, both from Notre Dame. Or they could answer Ben Roethlisberger’s personal ad for a tall wide receiver and take Penn State’s Allen Robinson or Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, both 6’3″.
As far as cornerbacks go, don’t expect the Steelers to take one any earlier than the third round. Barring a trade, they have the 33rd pick in the third round, No. 97 overall. It’s a compensatory pick, so they can’t trade it for an earlier pick.
It’s going to be a long wait. The Steelers might even sleep on it and pick a corner on Day 3, but at the end of the tunnel are these cornerback prospects, ranked in order with information from NFL Draft Scout, NFL.com and Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.