Though the buzz has been relatively quiet since signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Southern California, the belief in Chris Steele — at least nationally — remains rather high for the former high-profile recruit.
Steele, one of the biggest names the Steelers signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2022 NFL Draft, possesses good overall size and athleticism and is a good athlete overall that has shown the ability to handle man-coverage duties at the collegiate level. A former 4-star cornerback, Steele found himself as the fifth-ranked cornerback in the nation coming out of high school, right there with the likes of Derek Stingley Jr., Kaair Elam, Andrew Booth and more.
While those other names had big college careers, Steele transferred from Florida early in his career after requesting a new roommate after quarterback Jalon Jones was accused of sexual assault; Steele had requested a new roommate months earlier but was denied, leading to his transfer to USC, where he was granted immediate eligibility in 2019.
In three years at USC, Steele had an up and down performance, earning Second Team All-Pac 12 honors in 2020 and an honorable mention accolade in 2021, but the overall production simply wasn’t there as Steele recorded just three career interceptions.
Discussion for best Pac-12 CB in 2021 is absolutely going to include Chris Steele pic.twitter.com/oGFdwnGXBW
—Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) April 17, 2021
His signing with the Steelers offers him a real shot at sticking in the NFL despite an underwhelming collegiate career, earning him the title of “most exciting” UDFAs to watch for the black and gold in this week’s OTAs on the South Side, according to Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobelski.
“NFL teams are always interested in taking fliers on forming top talents, specifically forming highly regarded recruits. The Pittsburgh Steelers secondary is in a bit of a transition phase with Levi Wallace taking over for Joe Haden as starting cornerback. Wallace is a former undrafted free agent who took over a starting job with the Buffalo Bills as part of the league’s best pass defense,” Sobelski writes. “Like Wallace, Steele went to a major program (two, actually, after transferring from Florida) but never quite put together the resume to warrant draft consideration. Steele is a 6’0″, 187-pound corner with 4.48-second 40-yard-dash speed. He has the talent to excel in the NFL, but his lapses in coverage and tackling can’t be as frequent.”
Chris Steele (@KinggChris7) vs. Oregon:
3 targets (wasn’t targeted past 10:30 in the 2Q)
2 catches allowed
15 yards allowed
Final season numbers for Steele:
11 catches allowed
4 PBU (1 more negatived by OPI)
41.6 pass rating when targeted pic.twitter.com/3HRO2OxPdn
—Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) December 21, 2020
There’s certainly some physical tools to work with when it comes to Steele. Though his testing numbers at his Pro Day were certainly concerning, he looked much better on tape than the numbers showed.
As Alex Kozora wrote in his UDFA profile on Steele, chances of the USC product being a diamond in the rough of the Steelers appears very slim. But with his size and overall athletic profile, he could show some flashes in OTAs, minicamp and training camp, leading to a spot on the practice squad, at least for the 2022 season.