Steelers have 'decent to really good' CB options late in first round

Nearly every mock draft will peg a cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have five defensive backs who are free agents from a unit that finished 30th in passing defense in 2015.

That includes mock draft 2.0 by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., who slotted Virginia Tech's Kendall Fuller as the Steelers' pick at 25th overall. I'm actually quite high on Fuller, who was hurt for much of his junior campaign. He has natural cover skills that stand out.

But two things also stand out here -- (1) I'm not convinced the Steelers pick a corner at 25, and (2) the only surefire corners, Jalen Ramsey and Vernon Hargreaves III, will be off the board well before Pittsburgh picks.

On an NFL Nation conference call, Kiper addressed why a team picking late in the first round might feel encouraged by the corner class. He mentioned Eli Apple as a viable option if he falls that far, though his ceiling feels higher (top 15-20).

"There are going to be some decent to really good cornerback options [at that spot]," Kiper said.

He mentioned Fuller, Notre Dame's KeiVarae Russell and Miami's Artie Burns as viable options.

Then he jumped into perhaps the most fascinating corner for late-first-round consideration: Clemson's Mackensie Alexander, who's 5-foot-10 and had no interceptions last season.

There's a reason for the zero picks, though.

"[Offenses] avoided him like he was one of the best cornerbacks in college football, which he was," Kiper said.

Speed won't be an issue for Alexander. But do the Steelers need another undersized corner? They played with plenty of those last year. One of their biggest corners, Cortez Allen, is coming off injured reserve with a knee cartilage issue.

Unless pro days and combine workouts suggest otherwise, Kiper is onto something -- there are some decent-to-good corner options outside of the top-two players, no surefire stars. That's in part why the Steelers could look at a versatile defensive lineman who can play inside/out or even a standout tight end such as Arkansas' Hunter Henry. If they do the latter they could add a pass-catching dimension over the middle of the field while still using Heath Miller, who I don't think will be cut.

Talking with media last week, general manager Kevin Colbert pointed to depth as a positive.

"The secondary looks to be a deep position, both at safety and at cornerback at this point," Colbert said.

If the depth is as good as he thinks, don't be surprised if the Steelers nab a corner in the second or third round instead of the first.