Among the offseason goals of the Pittsburgh Steelers is to find players in the secondary who can produce turnovers.
New cornerback Steven Nelson believes he can bring such ball-hawking abilities to a unit that produced few interceptions last year.
“I know this year will be different,” Nelson said Thursday when the Steelers introduced the player they signed to a three-year, $25.5 million contract. “We’ll do some great things. We’re going to change that around this year.”
Veteran cornerback Joe Haden led all Steelers defensive backs with just two interceptions in 2018. The entire secondary accounted for four – the same number that Nelson produced in his final season with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Only two defenses in the NFL forced fewer turnovers than the Steelers’ 15.
Nelson thinks he has the skill set required to provide more interceptions for the Steelers this season. He also had 15 passes defensed last season.
“My toughness,” Nelson said when asked to describe the skills the Steelers found attractive in him. “I feel like my toughness, my relentlessness, my work ethic.”
Nelson was drafted in the third round by the Chiefs in 2015. He started 38 games in his final three seasons, moving full time to the outside in 2018.
Nelson was one of the most targeted cornerbacks last year while playing for a Chiefs pass defense that was among the worst in the NFL.
“Just being on the outside, you’re going to get more targets,” he said. “That ball is going to come your way more. You just have more opportunities. If you’re a playmaker and you have a knack for the ball, you’re just able to make more plays on the ball that way.”
Nelson said the Chiefs almost exclusively played man coverage last season, a departure from the Steelers who primarily play zone.
“I can do a lot of different things,” Nelson said. “That allows me to show how versatile I am.”
With the Steelers, he also will get the chance to face the newest high-profile addition to the AFC North, Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
“I welcome that challenge,” he said. “Twice a year, all year.”