For the last several seasons, it was becoming increasingly more apparent that a retooling of Pittsburgh’s cornerback department was needed. From interceptions clanging off Ike Taylor’s hands to Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas scorching him, it was clear reinforcements were needed. Once boasting as fearsome a front seven as the league had to offer, the players soon were deemed “too old” or “slow” and it showed, as teams attacked Pittsburgh through the air. A prime example of this could be in Super Bowl XLV, when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers basically made any throw he wanted, en route to SB MVP honors.
The patchwork of low round draft picks and other team’s castoffs filling the secondary could only be masked by the Pittsburgh pass rush for so long, and once that fell off a cliff, as the past few seasons have shown, so did the coverage. After free agency swept away Brice McCain to Miami and Taylor to retirement, the cupboard was barren, left with the likes of William Gay, severe underachiever Cortez Allen, Antwon Blake and B.W. Webb. That’s not exactly a lineup that’s going to scare some of the quarterbacks the team will face during it’s torrid 2015 schedule. It was clear the draft was an outlet for the team to replenish and they chose to do so in the second round, nabbing the 5-foot-9, 176-pound ball hawk, Senquez Golson.
His size is the first thing that jumps off the screen, as the Steelers normally seem to prefer their corners with length. However, CBS Sports’ NFL Draft Insider, Rob Rang, thinks big things come in small packages and this will ring true for Pittsburgh.
“His agility, instincts and ball skills stood out on tape against college football’s most talented competition and with Golson only recently making the transition to football full time after starring as a center fielder for the baseball team, there is plenty of reason to suspect that his best football lies ahead of him,” Rang said, according to CBSsports.com.
It’s his ball skills that stand out on the tape, as noted by his 10 interceptions last season for Ole Miss. Much like another of their “undersized” finds in Antonio Brown, Kevin Colbert and the front office should have a better grip on the reality that bigger isn’t necessarily better. Brown is often lost in the conversation of the NFL’s best receiver when compared to Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas or Dez Bryant, but I’m sure any Steelers fan wouldn’t trade him for the world. He’s all grit, fire and determination and those are some of the traits Golson plays with as well.
“Fast enough to handle duties on the outside, as well as quick, instinctive and tough enough to slip inside in the nickel, Golson could be the playmaker in the secondary that the Steelers desperately need given the turnover at cornerback and retirement of All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu,” Rang said. With OTA’s currently underway, and mini camps and training camp looming, there’s plenty of time for Golson to get adjusted to his new playbook.
With a secondary devoid of playmakers, a day one starting spot is unlikely for the rookie, but by season’s end, I wouldn’t bet against it. I also wouldn’t bet against Rang’s playmaking prediction either.