By Matthew Marczi
Although it is but a small indication, it seems as though second-year undrafted cornerback Isaiah Green has surpassed Josh Victorian on the depth chart. Victorian, who also went undrafted a few years ago, actually has some in-game experience, including a start against the Dallas Cowboys last year when injuries necessitated a warm body at the position.
On the new depth chart released on Wednesday, Green is now listed as the third-team cornerback on the right side behind starter Ike Taylor and slot corner William Gay; Victorian is now listed as the fourth-team corner.
Of course, changes in a preseason depth chart following just one game are not sacrosanct, and are in fact subject to change on a day-to-day, or even snap-to-snap basis in practice, depending on the whims of head coach Mike Tomlin.
However, the fact that the change was made at all does serve as a manifestation of the team’s satisfaction with Green’s performances in practice and how it carried over on to the field this past Saturday.
With all of the injuries at the cornerback position, both players saw extended playing time in the preseason opener for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the New York Giants, with Green playing 41 of the team’s 70 defensive snaps and Victorian playing 45.
According to the data tracked by Pro Football Focus, Victorian was targeted six times in 29 coverage snaps, allowing three receptions for 42 yards. He recorded four tackles—one against the run—and no pass breakups.
Meanwhile, Green was targeted three times in 25 coverage snaps without allowing a reception. On one of those three targets, he recorded a pass defense, but he registered zero tackles.
What he did register on film, however, was poise, confidence, and speed.
Speed is perhaps the largest area of separation between Green and Victorian. Both are short at 5’10”, and weigh in the 180-190 pound range. Unlike Victorian, however, Green is capable of delivering a sub-4.4 40-yard dash, and he also plays with speed and quickness.
With the injuries to Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, DeMarcus Van Dyke, and Terry Hawthorne, Green has been given a legitimate opportunity to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. Van Dyke remains out with a strained hamstring, while Brown and Hawthorne have only just resumed practices, allowing Green to gain ground in what is likely a battle for the fifth and final cornerback spot on the roster.
Due to the fact that both Robert Golden and Shamarko Thomas are adept at playing the slot from the safety position, and the likelihood of the need for an extra roster spot at the tight end position to accommodate some injured veterans, the Steelers may only keep nine defensive backs this year. Can Green, a longshot, be one of them?