As general manager Kevin Colbert revealed following the draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers planned on coming out of the weekend with two new cornerbacks on the roster, and they accomplished that after selecting Doran Grant in the fourth round after previously adding Senquez Golson in the second round, whom they targeted specifically because of his ball skills.
Grant is, like Golson, a player that the Steelers had in for a pre-draft visit. Coming in from Ohio State, there was already a familiarity, as Pittsburgh and the Buckeyes have a bit of a connection, though less so since Dick LeBeau resigned. Of course, last year’s first-round draft pick, Ryan Shazier, was a teammate of his playing on the same defense.
There is another player with whom Grant should be familiar on the starting defense, and I’m not referring to Cameron Heyward. That player is William Gay, who I see comparisons to in the rookie’s skill set, mental makeup, and measurables.
Drafted out of Louisville in 2007 in the fifth round, Gay joined the Steelers as a 5’10” cornerback with a 4.48 40-yard dash time. Grant, also 5’10”, was one of the leading Combine performers at the position with a 40 time of 4.44.
While the 187 lbs. Gay could boast the better vertical of about three inches, Grant, who has 13 lbs. on him, posted 21 reps on the bench press, five more than Gay. The majority of their other numbers bear a striking similarity, such as the 20-yard split time of 2.57 and 2.55, respectively.
While there are some physical similarities, however, the more significant comparison comes on the field and with what Grant is able to do, and I believe that the rookie has the capacity, both physically and intellectually, to play all over the defensive backfield, as has been Gay’s reputation.
As an outside corner in college, Grant has the edge experience, but some project him as more ideally a slot guy. The same is the case for Gay, but he has proven over his career that he can compete on the outside as well, which bodes well for the rookie.
Like Gay, teams have discussed Grant possibly as a safety, even if Colbert said in his post-draft press conference that he was added as a cornerback, saying that he “has a corner mentality”. Defensive backs coach Carnell Lake was asked after the pick about him playing safety, and he said that he wrote that down in his evaluation notes.
Grant also talked about being asked to play safety during his conference call following the selection, and he discussed his position flexibility “I’m very versatile. I could play at the outside at cornerback or put me inside or possibly back deep at the safety position”.
While he said that he has only practiced at safety and never played the position in a game, he believes that he is “smart enough to learn that position” because he is mindful of the entire backfield.
Gay, too, may have never formally played safety in the Steelers’ defense, but there are certain coverage looks in which he does play the role of safety. In the future, I believe that Grant could be a similarly reliable and versatile player for this defense