PITTSBURGH— The Pittsburgh Steelers enter Week 6 with a battered and battered secondary, while facing one of the most dangerous passers in league history in Tampa Bay Buccaneers veteran Tom Brady.
The Steelers, who have had the No. 30 pass defense in the league for five weeks, are without free All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and all three starting cornerbacks: Cam Sutton, Levi Wallace and Ahkello Witherspoon.
Instead, the Steelers will start strong and reliable safety Terrell Edmunds, who is returning from NFL concussion protocol after missing last week’s game, with a menagerie of unheralded young players around him.
Former second-year seventh-round pick Tre Norwood will start at free safety, while Art Maulet, signed as a street free agent in 2021, will fill the spot. While these two may not have the praise of the players they replace, at least the No. 21 and No. 35 should be somewhat familiar to Steelers fans.
Steelers CB Quincy Wilson (Ed Thompson/Steelers Now)
Steelers NB Art Maulet (Alan Saunders/Steelers Now)
Steelers DB Tre Norwood (Ed Thompson/Steelers Now)
Steelers DB Elijah Riley (Alan Saunders/Steelers Now)
Steelers CB Josh Jackson (Matt Durisko/AP)
Steelers CB James Pierre (Ed Thompson/Steelers Now)
This is not necessarily the case for the rest of the starting secondary. Third-year outside corner James Pierre will make his fifth career start at one boundary corner position, while Josh Jackson will start at the other.
Jackson was a second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2018 and has plenty of NFL experience, having played in 42 games and made 15 starts for the Pack between 2018 and 2020. But he’s terribly new to the Steelers. The team added him to its practice squad on September 5, but he played his first black-and-gold game as a reserve practice squad last Sunday.
This week, the two will make their first starts of the 2022 season. That probably doesn’t get many good feelings from the Steelers faithful who have seen their starting secondary fight so far this season, but the backups feel like be ready to leave if needed.
“Being in my fifth year, I feel really good about everything,” Jackson said. “I feel like I’ve seen enough football, played enough football to go out there and know how to play. I feel really good and I feel confident. It’s the most confident I’ve ever had. been in my career.
Pierre was the surprise of Steelers training camp in 2020, landing a role despite no preseason and limited opportunities, and was a mainstay on Pittsburgh’s special teams, excelling as a kick-coverer. sending and punting.
But he didn’t turn it into more chances in defence. After passing Justin Layne to become the No. 3 outside corner on the 2020 run, the Ahkello Witherspoon passed Pierre in 2021. Pierre hasn’t taken a single defensive snap in the final six weeks of the 2021 season or the first four games of 2022.
But the time away from defense may have paid off. Pierre was the highest-ranked member of the Steelers secondary on Pro Football Focus last week, and he received a post-game compliment from Bills star receiver Stephon Diggs.
“He came after the game and told me to keep going,” Pierre said. “He liked my game and told me to keep working. It’s just more confidence for me.
Joining these two in “Whose Legion?” secondary this week will be former New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles safety and slot corner Elijah Riley, who was once an undrafted free agent from Army West Point, and Quincy Wilson another former pick second-rounder that the Steelers signed mid-season.
Riley will replace Norwood as a no-backup safety and slot corner. Wilson will be the backup outside corner and could push the versatile Jackson to the slot if he wants to play a heavy Dime in coverage.
“I really learned both, inside and out,” Jackson said. “As a pro, you have to be ready for anything. You never know what might come up or go down in a game.
The unnamed secondary will have an advantage on Sunday, as they will have a staff of around seven secondary coaches on hand, with the usual coaching staff joined by the chorus of inactive veterans trying to keep the newcomers in line.
“They keep it plain and simple,” Pierre said. “No deposit allowed.”