ADAM RANK: The Pittsburgh Steelers have the best secondary in football. I say this even with Terrell Edmunds still entrenched at strong safety. He’s the Paul Roma of the Steelers’ Four Horsemen in the defensive backfield, which is led by safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. I know a lot of people were stunned when the Steelers offered a first-round pick for Fitzpatrick, but he’s proven to be a worthy investment. If he isn’t the best safety in the game, he’s clearly in the conversation. And the Steelers also have an exceptional group of corners that includes Joe Haden, Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton. All three guys landed in Pro Football Focus’ top 25 cornerbacks last season, and in case you didn’t know, Nelson ranked seventh. Back to Edmunds for a second. I understand Steelers fans’ frustration with the former first-round pick many thought was a reach, but he’s still a really young player and showed great strides last year playing opposite Minkah. And Edmunds doesn’t have to break out into stardom — if he can become a replacement-level player, this secondary is going to be one of the league’s best in years.
CHARLEY CASSERLY: I would go with the Baltimore Ravens. I especially like their quality, versatility and depth at the cornerback position. It starts with shutdown corner Marlon Humphrey, who is equally effective playing inside or outside and isn’t afraid to tackle. Humphrey is also a playmaker, as he had three picks, forced two fumbles and returned two of his three fumble recoveries for TDs last season. Did I mention he was named first-team All-Pro? Opposite Humphrey, Marcus Peters has played very well since being traded by Los Angeles. He has a high football IQ and his preparation allows him to take chances, which paid off in two picks returned for TDs for Baltimore. He also earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2019. Veteran Jimmy Smith still has value as a press corner and is effective in the red zone and in two-minute defense. He’s a blitzer who can match up with tight ends. Then there’s nickel Tavon Young, who has great feet, lateral quickness, tackling ability and can blitz. Chuck Clark was a key member of the secondary in 2019, as he plugged the one weakness with his good play at strong safety, excelling as the signal-caller in a varied defense. Earl Thomas got off to a slow start in the Ravens’ system last year but came around as the season progressed. At 31 years old, he may have lost a step, but Thomas still has a knack to make plays. A player to watch this season is DeShon Elliott, who was further along than Clark before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 6 last year. However you look at it, this Ravens unit is stacked.