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Mock Draft Monday: The Steelers look to fill out their cornerback tandem

The Pittsburgh Steelers are heading into the 2024 offseason. With free agency as the next big event to shape next season’s roster, it will be followed by the NFL draft in April. The Steelers will have a number of decisions with players who were on the 2023 roster and will have the opportunity to add some free agent acquisitions before making their first draft selection. The NFL combine and player pro days will also shape the team’s big boards before the draft.

When talking about mock drafts or NFL free agency, one first has to first identify the team’s main needs for the offseason. Before any gains or losses in free agency, there are some who would like to see the Steelers go with either offensive line or defensive line with their first-round pick. Others feel inside linebacker or cornerback could be on top of the list. With plenty of chances for the Steelers to shape their roster prior to April, their goal is usually to get into position to draft the best player available rather than target a specific position. When it comes to what position the team will select with their first pick, it is certainly up for debate.

In the latest one-round mock draft by profootballnetwork.com, they have the Steelers addressing the cornerback position this season before anything else. Although the Steelers went with cornerback with the first pick of the second round last season in Joey Porter Jr., it does not take it off the table to be a place to look for someone else to fill out the starting pair. Since the Steelers could go in any number of directions with their first selection, it is important to look at all the possibilities presented by various mock draft outlets.

Check out the Steelers 20th pick:

20. Pittsburgh Steelers | Kool-Aid McKinstry | CB | Alabama | JR |

Being early in the draft process, there may be some players most fans are not familiar with. If this is the case, here is a breakdown of McKinstry according to thedraftnetwork.com:

Kool-Aid McKinstry, CB, Alabama  

Size:

  • Height: 6’0” | Weight: 185 lbs

Accomplishments:

  • AP First Team All-American (2023, 2022)
  • First Team All-SEC (2022)
  • First Team All-SEC Punt Returner (2022)

Strengths:

  • Lateral agility  
  • Smooth transitions/fluid hips  
  • Ability to play press-man consistently 
  • Competitive at the catch point  
  • Willing tackler in the run game  

Concerns:

  • Allows receivers to stack him vertically  
  • Covering physical receivers in and out of breaks
  • Tracking the deep ball 

Film Analysis: 

Kool-Aid McKinstry is a smooth press-man corner who wins with his foot quickness at the line of scrimmage. McKinstry understands that press-man reps are won by using his foot quickness and he shows the ability to use that and his hip fluidity to mirror receivers in their release without having to get hands on them. From this press technique, McKinstry has shown to have two approaches: 1) being able to stay on top of the receiver while staying in a good position to break down on any cut/break or 2) he can play in the trail technique. In the trail technique, McKinstry shows good patience and is looking to jump underneath on any in-breaker or underneath route. McKinstry has fluid hips and maintains great body control, which keeps him in position to contest the ball and break up passes. McKinstry is a corner who is competitive at the catch point and will fight for the pass breakup or INT. 

Even though McKinstry has high-level athletic ability, there is also an element of physicality to his game. McKinstry shows well in run support and is a willing and effective tackler on the boundary. He also shows to be an effective blitzer who has a fearless attacking attitude blitzing and being disruptive. 

Although many elements of McKinstry’s skill set make him a high-level corner, there are elements of his game that he needs to improve. When McKinstry jumps into his trail technique, he appears to give too much separation and there are opportunities for receivers to beat him vertically—and he is chasing instead of being in position to locate the ball. On the college level, this is not as much of an issue. But in the NFL, where quarterbacks are more consistent on a week-in and week-out basis, this could lead to big completions. McKinstry appears to have the speed, he just needs to activate it sooner and work to stay closer in phase with the receiver on vertical routes. 

Overall, McKinstry has plus-level athletic attributes that allow him to be a great press-man corner on the outside, while also possessing the athletic tools to be a candidate to move to the nickel corner position and play at a high level. 

Prospect Projection: Day 1 — Pro Bowl Caliber 

For all you who are preparing yourself for the draft, what do you think of the selection? Would you be on board with the Steelers taking McKinstry with their first pick? Or do you feel there is a better player at this position, a different one who may still be available, or that McKinstry will not make it to the 20th pick? Personally, I’m all for the Steelers looking to have two young, dominant cornerbacks who can bolster their secondary together for years to come. While some Steelers fans may be leery of the “drafting a cornerback” issue, I’m not worried about it based simply on last year. The key is making sure the right guy who is there at 20 will get the job done with what you want to do with Joey Porter already showing his NFL capabilities. If that’s the best pick for the Steelers in that spot, I am fine with the selection. As for specifically McKinstry, the various positional rankings for conerback are all over the place at this time with some having him at the top and others not even having McKinstry as the best corner from his college. So looking at McKinstry as potentially already being gone or as a reach at 20 is difficult to judge at this time. While this specific Mock Draft breakdown had McKinstry as the number one CB for the Steelers ahead of Porter for next year, I think that is a bit of a stretch.

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