Steelers sign Anthony Averett but still need help at cornerback

The Pittsburgh Steelers added depth to their defensive backs group by announcing the signing of veteran cornerback Anthony Averett to a one-year deal on Sunday.

Averett participated in the Steelers rookie minicamp over last weekend on a tryout basis and was awarded a contract afterwards.

The journeyman corner was originally drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He would appear in 44 games for the Ravens, including a breakout season in 2021 where he had 11 passes defensed to pair with 3 interceptions and a career-high 54 tackles.

He would sign with the Las Vegas Raiders in 2022, appearing in seven games after starting – and finishing – the season on injured reserve. IR would be a common theme when the San Francisco 49ers released Averett before the start of the 2023 NFL season. He would sign with the Detroit Lions practice squad and last there for one month before being released.

Embed from Getty Images

While the 29-year-old cornerback has had injury issues in the past, the 5-foot-11 178-pound appears healthy and ready for a comeback. Familiarity is a key reason the Steelers signed the former Raven, but what will he offer his new team?

Until adding Averett on Sunday, the Steelers primary backups were Cory Trice, Jr. and Darius Rush: both of whom are entering their second year in the NFL with question marks.

Trice, a seventh round draft pick of the Steelers in 2023, was injured in training camp and didn’t play a single down of football last season.

Rush was also drafted last season, in the fifth round by the Indianapolis Colts, but failed to make their roster. He was waived and claimed by the Kansas City Chiefs before being demoted to the practice squad and eventually signed by the Steelers. Rush would appear in three games, playing a total of 39 snaps – 30 of those against the Tennessee Titans. He was inactive for eight of his eleven games in a Steelers uniform, not including a ninth game in the postseason.

Averett’s addition is a veteran presence that was missing behind starter boundary corners Joey Porter Jr. and Donte Jackson this offseason versus relying on two inexperienced corners in Trice and Rush.

Embed from Getty Images

However, the Steelers may not be finished adding to their defensive backs room, as they are still seeking a slot corner. Pittsburgh had previously moved on from nickel corners Mike Hilton, Arthur Maulet and Chandon Sullivan in recent years, and are still searching for someone to take up this mantle in 2024.

Unfortunately, the slot cornerback position doesn’t seem to be a role Averett will be taking up, as he’s played few snaps in this position throughout his career and is primarily an outside cornerback.

The same is true of Trice and Rush, as neither player projects to be slot corners either. This leaves Josiah Scott and Beanie Bishop as the most likely candidates on the roster to play in the slot.

Scott, a former 2020 fourth-round pick out of Michigan State, has been on and off of the Eagles and Steelers rosters in recent years. He played 33 total games for the Eagles between 2021 and 2023, returning to the Steelers on a futures contract for 2024 after spending time on Pittsburgh’s practice squad between his stints with Philadelphia.

Bishop is an undrafted free agent rookie who played six years of college ball between three different programs. He led the nation in passes defensed (24) and added four interceptions with the West Virginia Mountaineers in 2023. As an aggressive player against the run, but with a smaller 5-foot-9 frame, he’s projected to compete for the nickel corner role.

Embed from Getty Images

The time for fans to watch will be the period between minicamps and the day to report to training camp. Should the Steelers feel uncomfortable with their cornerback room, they could add several more players to the mix due to the lack of experience with Trice, Rush, and Bishop, as well as any concerns over Averett and Scott.

The team made a similar move last season, adding Desmond King at the conclusion of training camp to a room that featured Porter, Patrick Peterson, Levi Wallace, James Pierre and Chandon Sullivan. Now all but Porter are gone, making this group one of the larger question marks on the roster as the season quickly approaches.

As such, we should expect GM Omar Khan to make at least one more transaction for a cornerback before the start of the regular season.

Suggested articles from our sponsors