It is no secret that tight ends have long been the kryptonite of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
In a concerted effort to fix this problem, the Steelers made it a priority to add size to their secondary unit. Last offseason, they added three defensive backs who were 6'2 or more: veteran safety Keanu Neal and rookie cornerbacks Joey Porter Jr. and Cory Trice Jr.
Notwithstanding Porter Jr.'s success in the previous campaign, the additions had little effect in resolving the problem, as tight ends continued to exploit the Steelers defense. In their playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills, they had no answers for stopping the duo of Dalton Kincaid and Dawson Knox.
Having said that, there are some excellent defensive back choices in this year's draft class. One young player stands out among the sea of bright possibilities as the possible answer to the Steelers' tight end dilemma. His name is James Williams.
The first thing that stands out about Williams is his stature: 6'5, 220 lbs. In addition to his size, his physical, aggressive nature made him an intimidating presence at the University of Miami.
What should not be overlooked about Williams is his athleticism and instincts, which have translated well as both a strong safety and a part-time linebacker. Last season with the Hurricanes, Williams held the team's highest coverage grade at 84.7, according to Pro Football Focus. In addition, he led the team in tackles with 73 while registering five pass deflections. All this points to a player with excellent versatility to complement his size.
The Steelers—why? The answer is straightforward: they require a presence that is both large enough to contain tight ends and intimidating enough to discourage pass catchers from going through the middle of the defense, where they are most vulnerable. Williams is just the kind of player that Omar Khan, who appreciates size and athleticism, ought to be keeping an eye on throughout this draft process.