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Thursday, July 17, 2014
Position preview: Cornerback

By Scott Brown

Next in a series that looks at every position on offense and defense with training camp approaching, we take a look at the Steelers' cornerbacks.

Returning starters: Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen. Taylor enters his 10th season as a starter and with something to prove. The 6-2, 195-pounder struggled to keep pace with marquee wide receivers in 2013 and the Steelers stopped moving him around the field late in the season. Allen has the size and balls skills to succeed Taylor as the Steelers’ No. 1 cornerback but he has to put it together for an entire season.

New faces: Brice McCain and Shaquille Richardson. McCain signed a one-year, $795,000 contract with the Steelers after falling out of favor in Houston. The Steelers used the first of their two fifth-round picks on Richardson, the only cornerback they selected in the draft.

On the bubble: Isaiah Green and Devin Smith. Green spent nine games on the 53-man roster last season but played in just three of them. Smith was on and off the Steelers’ practice squad in 2013.

By the numbers: Steelers cornerbacks have combined for 18 interceptions in the last five seasons. Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall has 21 interceptions during that span.

Did you know: Rod Woodson is the last Steelers cornerback to make the Pro Bowl and that happened in 1997. Mel Blount and Woodson are the only two Steelers’ cornerbacks to earn a Pro Bowl selection since 1979.

Quotable: “I’ve had an opportunity to be around great veterans who taught me and who have been here for a number of years. That’s what makes us a special group. We’re so close, there’s no ego and it helps us get better as a whole.” – Allen.

Outlook: This group will be closely scrutinized after the Steelers did little, at least on paper, to improve it. Taylor, who is 34, isn’t getting any younger, but he keeps himself in excellent shape and is plenty motivated after having to accept a pay cut to return to the Steelers. William Gay is a solid No. 3 cornerback who is essentially a starter with how often the Steelers employ their nickel defense. Antwon Blake is poised for a bigger role after playing primarily on special teams and McCain, 27, is young enough to bounce back after regressing last season in Houston. The Steelers need more interceptions from their cornerbacks, and Allen taking another step this season -- and staying healthy -- could go a long way toward the position producing more takeaways.