End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Antwon Blake
Experience: 3 Years
By year’s end, Antwon Blake became an integral part of the Steelers’ munchkin cornerback group, with all three players logging time standing at 5’10” or below. In Blake’s case, it was below. No doubt his height has held him back in his career, from contributing to him going undrafted to his original team trying him at safety instead of cornerback.
Despite emerging as a talent on special teams, Blake was let go after his first season, and the Steelers chose to sign him. He proved himself on special teams during his first year with the Steelers, but only logged an injury replacement snap here and there on defense.
In his second year with the Steelers, however, Blake showed that he can contribute on defense, which is a belief that the organization held going into that offseason, and influenced their decision-making with respect to free agency and the draft.
By and large, Blake made good on his coaches’ confidence in him toward the end of the season. Despite logging under 300 snaps on defense, he combined for 42 tackles between defense and special teams.
He also contributed an interception, as well as a forced fumble that helped seal the Steelers’ victory in the season finale that earned them a home playoff game for the first time in four seasons, even if they ended up losing that game.
Despite his height, Blake’s impressive speed and his natural skill set make him an outside corner. With injuries mounting at the position, by season’s end, Brice McCain was the starter, and would slide inside in sub-packages to allow Blake to play outside.
There are, of course, limitations to Blake’s game, but none of them come from the mental department. He certainly has the right attitude to play the position, and his eager willingness in run support is to be commended. He does miss a tackle from time to time due to his size, but he still has room to grow, with 2014 being his first serious playing experience at this level.
The fourth-year cornerback is currently a restricted free agent and the Steelers have yet to determine how they will proceed with their three RFAs. Certainly the team would like to keep Blake, but at over $1.5 million for a tender, perhaps they will pursue a modest multi-year contract to reduce his cap hit instead.