Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Steelers Sign Brice McCain, Bring In Prospect Bradley Roby: Defensive Backfield Is In Motion

"NFL teams threw for a combined 120,633 yards last season, an average of 471.2 yards passing per game for both teams. That’s way, way up from the combined 109,467 yards in 2003, when teams combined to average 400.8 yards passing per game." - http://t.co/4CPn0Ng9p6 

Those words from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Alan Robinson indicate the need to have a strong secondary. The Pittsburgh Steelers recognize this and are still makeover mode. 

Tuesday morning, the Steelers announced the signing of former Houston Texans Nickel defensive back Brice McCain. 

It was also disseminated Monday night that Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby would be visiting the South Side. 

One is a potential upgrade, the other is something that likely just smacks at depth. 

Like the Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac tweeted (@gerrydulac), "McCain signed for depth. Started 10 of 72 games in 5 seasons w Houston." So, yes, he undoubtedly will be a backup cornerback and special teams player for the Steelers. In Houston, the 4.33/40 McCain often was the gunner.

At first glance, though, this isn't a good signing. As the aforementioned article states, "the 5-foot-9, 180-pound McCain was the NFL’s worst-rated cornerback last season, according to Pro Football Focus."

But going back a little further reminds us that Brice McCain was once an integral part of the Texans secondary. The very same Pro Football Focus two years earlier wrote of McCain being a "secret superstar." - 
http://tinyurl.com/7p5ynst

But we had written previously that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin recently said that they would be focusing on the defense's sub packages, as this current NFL showcases more and more three- and four-receiver sets, forcing Nickel and Dime packages. So it is possible that defensive backs coach Carnell Lake feels he has something to work with in McCain. 

Regardless, the teams who thrive in that pass-happy environment are obvious. Case in point, the Super Bowl-Champion Seattle Seahawks had 28 interceptions last season. 

The Steelers had 31 interceptions. . .over the last three seasons (10 INTs in 2013, 10 in '12 and 11 in '11). That means the secondary, then, is of unique importance in today's game. True to his word, therefore, Tomlin has orchestrated a second defensive back free agent signing.  

The other DB who will be in town is draft hopeful Bradley Roby. The Ohio State product was on Sirius XM (@SiriusXMNFL on Twitter) Monday night and announced his plans: "I have 8 visits set up. I will be meeting with the Chargers, Steelers, Titans, Bills and Jets this week."

Roby, who had been considered a top-ten draft prospect going into his junior year, saw his draft stock plummet because of a disappointing 2013 from a personal-play standpoint. 

Disappointing in just about every objective measurement - ball awareness, losing track of the receiver, backpedal - as he was torched and torched (and torched) last season. Rotoworld.com breaks down his performance here: http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/cfb/46190/349/peshek-cb-metrics-10

However, Roby has definite attributes - speed, explosion, good hands, good hips - and did have a very good showing at the NFL Scouting Combine. He was 4th among DBs  with a 4.39/40, T-6th in vertical jump (38.5"), T-11th in broad jump (10'4"), and was one of the more fluid DBs going through the drills overall. 

So, while the Combine is no substitute for a season's worth if games, he does have real NFL potential and could be a likely fit if the Steelers decide to address the wide receiver position in the first round and then go cornerback in the second (and third?) round. 

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TIDBITS: Per the Post-Gazette's Ed Bouchette, the "Steelers get McCain for vet minimum plus $65 K bonus. He will count $635,000 against their cap. That means he adds $215 K to cap as top-51."

Per the Rule of 51 and displacement of higher contract amounts, as Bouchette continued, the "Steelers now have a little less than $400 K in salary cap space."

OverTheCap.com had the Steelers at $712,896 before the previous signing (Blount), so those numbers look to be accurate. 

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"@EdBouchette: Veteran WR Darrius Heyward-Bey to visit #Steelers Wed. 7th overall pick in 2009. UFA. Team has just under $400K in cap room" ... Umm...no.