Why USC's Chris Steele may have tough time earning playing time with his new NFL team

Chris Steele, USC Football, USC Trojans
Chris Steele, USC Football, USC Trojans / Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

USC football starting cornerback Chris Steele didn't get drafted this season, but did get picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Pittsburgh Steelers after the 2022 NFL Draft.

Steele was the victim of terrible coaching by Trojan Defensive Coordinator Todd Orlando, which forced him not to progress in his development after he came to SC as a very talented four-star CB (all recruiting rankings and ratings in article are as of 247Sports).

While Steele was impressive his first two years at SC, he regressed in his third and final year. He had a tendency to be a bit too physical and be called for penalties.

CBs Coach Donte Williams would have been able to coach him out of those habits, but when he was promoted to interim head coach during the 2021 season, he didn't have the chance to work with Steele as closely as he did in 2020. It explains the drop-off in production from Steele from 2020 to 2021.

Physicality as a corner does, however, translate well to the NFL. So, while NFL General Managers were turned off by his career-low in PD's in 2021 (three) and just 33 tackles, the Steelers are rightfully giving him a chance.

It could be tough for him to stand out in camp and earn some good playing time come game time, however, due to Pittsburgh already being rather stout in their pass defense.

While the Steelers gave up the 9th-most yards per game in the NFL last year (361.1), only 215.1 of those yards per game were through the air (ninth-best in league).

Former USC CB Chris Steele will improve now that he'll finally have real coaching.

The issue for Chris Steele, however, is that the guys already with Pittsburgh do a good job. If the former USC corner wants to see significant playing time early, he'll have tough competition. On the bright side, veteran corner Joe Haden is on his way out. On the flip side, the Steelers signed Ahkello Witherspoon and Levi Wallace in free agency.

So while Steele will finally have coaching that can develop him and put him in positions to succeed (which he absolutely did not have last year), there's going to be other guys Pittsburgh went out of their way to bring in this offseason to work with too. Not to mention he is likely currently also behind other backups in James Pierre, Arthur Maulet, Linden Stephens, and Bryce Watts.

With Cameron Sutton likely starting along with Wallace, and Witherspoon as the nickel, it will be Steele's job to shake some of the other backups who will be vying for playing time as well.

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One of the most talented corners in his recruiting class (No. 5 in the nation), talent has never been the issue with Steele. Coaching and a lack of player development under Orlando was the issue. It'll be tough for Steele to see the field frequently in Pittsburgh, but now that he'll be learning from real coaching these days, it would be unwise to count him out.