Updated: Jun 11
Do you remember the 2020 season? I do, unfortunately.
It was an unpredictable time for all of us with the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet somehow, despite the many setbacks and obstacles, the NFL managed to pull off a full season.
At that time, the Pittsburgh Steelers were on an historic run, going 11-0 to start the season, only to watch them regress toward the end. They still managed to win the division after beating the Colts, but were promptly eliminated by the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. Frankly speaking, it was a game that I chose to forget because it was one of their worst showings in years.
One of the few positives in that game was an undrafted player out of Florida Atlantic by the name of James Pierre. An argument can be made that he was the best player for the Steelers that day, as he did not seem overwhelmed under playoff pressure. Despite the loss, I felt that Pierre was the type of player who had a bright future.
Pierre parlayed his success from that game into the following season. He made his first career start when veteran Joe Haden was injured. Against the Denver Broncos a few weeks later, he made a clutch interception that helped them seal the win. Yes, Pierre had all the tools to become a solid contributor at cornerback.
Unfortunately, the weeks following that game were not so promising for Pierre, notably Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals, when he was awful. After that, we did not see much of Pierre except on special teams. As former Steelers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon took over his spot and emerged, while Pierre became somewhat of an afterthought. This past season, Pierre made a couple of starts at cornerback and played relatively well. Yet, this offseason, the team has done an excellent job adding to the group of corners, namely both Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice Jr. from this year's NFL Draft.
With all this in mind, it would be easy for us to forget about Pierre. Yet notice how he lasted on the team longer than the man who replaced him. In the small sample size we saw last season, Pierre can still be an asset to the secondary while contributing on special teams.
Perhaps my reasons are subjective, but I believe the best is yet to come for Pierre. If given more snaps, I am certain that he will rise to the occasion like he once did. So, as excited as many of us are for the rookie, we should not be quick to disregard a player like Pierre, who still has much to offer.