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Sunday, March 9, 2014
Alterraun Verner on Steelers' radar

By Scott Brown

A source confirmed the Pittsburgh Steelers have expressed interest in cornerback Alterraun Verner, who could be one of the most sought after players when the free-agent signing period begins on Tuesday.

Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean first reported the Steelers' interest in the Titans cornerback.

Verner
It makes a ton of sense for the Steelers to at least inquire about Verner during the period in which teams are allowed to talk to agents of impending free agents but not consummate any deals (wink, wink) with them.

The Steelers have a serious need at cornerback, and Verner is coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he intercepted five passes for the Titans, including one against the Steelers. The 5-foot-10, 187-pounder is only 25, and he has played every game in his four NFL seasons.

What’s more, the Steelers have more familiarity with Verner than most teams.

New offensive line coach Mike Munchak was Verner’s head coach in Tennessee for three seasons. Defensive backs coach Carnell Lake was Verner’s position coach his senior year at UCLA.

Working against the Steelers when it comes to Verner is dollars and sense.

The market will not be an accommodating one for cornerback-needy teams that don’t have much room under the salary cap like the Steelers (they are about $3.7 million under the cap, according to ESPN roster management).

Sam Shields established the price range for the top available cornerbacks when he signed a four-year, $39 million contract that will keep him in Green Bay.

That is a big number, and the price could be higher for Verner, becausre a handful of teams reportedly have already expressed interest. The Steelers could find a way to sign Verner given how effective they are at massaging the salary cap, and with increases in the spending ceiling anticipated over the next couple of years.

But can they afford to invest so much in one player, even one as talented as Verner, when they have so many other needs as well on defense?

I would be surprised if the Steelers engage in a bidding war for Verner, and with the start of free agency almost here, that might be the only way they can land him.