Despite the fact that there has been perhaps no more widely-discussed storyline for the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason than their attempts in the draft to address the secondary, and the cornerback position specifically after selecting two in the first four rounds, it has seemed rather curious that we have not heard a great deal from Doran Grant, the second of the two corners drafted.
Grant, whose Ohio State team came away with the national championship in his final collegiate season in a campaign in which he contributed with five interceptions and arguably the most reliable tackling of all cornerbacks in the draft class, has largely been overshadowed by some of his teammates.
From the story arc of William Gay emerging as the leader of the secondary in his year 30 season, to the redemption story in progress of Cortez Allen, to the subtle hubris of the 5’9” Antwon Blake, and the pedigree and—ahem—stature of second-rounder Senquez Golson, there hasn’t been much meat left on the bone for the more blue-collar Grant to grab many headlines.
Which makes it fitting that his most recent print came in the third bit in a notebook column from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, in which the top story was the importance of the team’s players to stay in shape in the down period between minicamp and training camp.
But it may be that blue-collar, nose to the grind type of attitude that gets him on the field first before his peers, as the column suggests. He believes that his tackling ability, praised by head coach Mike Tomlin immediately after the draft as a distinguishing characteristic, may be his pathway to playing time.
And it would certainly fit the mold, as Tomlin has long been adamant that his cornerbacks much come up and defend the run, a key element of which is tackling with technique and authority, of which Grant is amply capable.
It may be what makes him the rookie defensive back most suited to getting on the field early, giving his coaches a bit of confidence that he will at least not fail physically to perform, which is what helped get Allen on the field as a rookie as well.
Of course, the rookie knows that he still has plenty to learn, and he has a fine teacher in that regard in Carnell Lake, who not only was a sound tackler as a former safety and cornerback, but also understands what it’s like to face live bullets as a greenhorn.
While Grant wouldn’t go so far as to say that his tackling ability is an advantage, he did acknowledge it as “one of the characteristics of my game”.
Through his first couple months as a professional athlete, he says that he has “learned just how much the little things count”, which has prompted him to focus more on “working on technique and trying to be fundamentally sound”. It may not garner him some of the attention that he teammates are getting now, but in the end, it could lead to him getting on the field faster.