Cornerback Misconceptions

By Alex Kozora (Chidi29)
April 10, 2011

Ask any Steelers fan if they'd rather have a Lamborghini or draft a cornerback in the first round, and hey, gas prices are too expensive anyway.

But maybe cornerback isn't as important as some think. If Ike Taylor stays with the team, don't expect the team to use a first round pick at the position.

The reason for that revolves around Dick LeBeau's scheme. LeBeau uses zone and off coverage the majority of the time. Cover 3 is frequently used where the two corners and deep safety, Polamalu will usually be playing in the box in this set or in man coverage on the tight end, take away a third of the field. That is why teams such as Atlanta had so much success on curl routes and deep comebacks.

Take a look at this video clip of Troy Polamalu's interception against Atlanta late in the 4th quarter:

At the start, you can see both cornerbacks playing well off the ball, a good eight to ten yards off the line. At the 31 second mark, you can clearly see McFadden turn and run immediately after the snap. Ryan Clark rotates to the middle of the field. This isn't a true Cover 3 since it has two deep safeties though Troy seems to be roaming, but it is a microcosm for the philosophy Dick LeBeau has.

So what do Steelers' cornerbacks have to do?

Pittsburgh's cornerbacks are designed to keep all the action in front of them and not to get beat deep. To eliminate momentum changing plays. Which is why it's so rare and surprising when the team does give up a deep pass or two, like what occurred against the Ravens.

They need to be solid tacklers. By playing so soft, teams counter it with screens and quick, timing routes. One missed tackle could lead to a lot of trouble. Steelers corners are YAC stoppers.

The number one goal of this defense is to stop the run. If they're not doing that, they're not having a good game. Stopping the run puts teams in second and third and long allowing LeBeau to use exotic defensive looks. That puts pressure on the quarterback and creates the opportunity for turnovers.

This goal is an eleven man task. As much criticism as Bryant McFadden gets, he is one of the best in the game against the run. He may be the reason why Ike Taylor played the majority of snaps at right cornerback because McFadden played on the strong side as a heat-seeking missile against the run.

The physical and strong tackling cornerback is not the flashy mold that gets the headlines. They aren't the 4.4 ballhawks that will be sitting in the green room at Music City Hall. To the Steelers, those players are luxuries and not necessities.

I am all for drafting a cornerback, if for no other reason to get Anthony Madison off the field in dime packages, but it doesn't have to happen in round one. There's no need to reach if there isn't a player worth taking. The team hasn't been so successful in the first round under Kevin Colbert by reaching.

Only two cornerbacks have been taken in the first round since 1979 - Rod Woodson and Chad Scott. Odds are, that number will stay the same after April.

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