With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ training camp for the 2015 season now in swing, it’s time to get down to the business of football. The time for “football in shorts” or “football-like” events is over as teams all around the league embark on their own personal journey for the upcoming season.
Although for just about every team the time leading up to the regular season and reflect a period of optimism, it’s also a period of great uncertainty, which means that there are a lot of questions that need to be answered before we know who or what a team truly is. It’s a process that can last well into the regular season.
Whenever a team makes a noteworthy move, it often raises as many questions as it answers. We learned after practice yesterday that the Steelers swapped a conditional fifth-round draft pick in 2016 to the Philadelphia Eagles for cornerback Brandon Boykin, and now we’re left to ponder the implications.
The reality is that the ramifications of this move are most likely to be determined, with the coaching staff unsure exactly where Boykin may ultimately fall in the pecking order. The Steelers have had an established rotation with their top three cornerbacks, but that could certainly change now.
Upon the news being released, the first question that arose pertained to rookie cornerback Senquez Golson, who is on the Active PUP List. The move suggests to many that the shoulder injury that has him sidelined is more serious than previously thought, perhaps enough to wipe out his rookie season, necessitating the injection of a proven contributor.
Boykin doesn’t have to travel far, so there’s no reason to expect that he won’t be out there practicing later today, but it will be too early to draw any kind of conclusions about their plans for them simply based on how he is incorporated into drills on his first day.
Chances are the coaching staff will want to get a look at their new toy in a variety of roles to test the range of his ability. They may throw him a decent amount of work with a couple of different lines, perhaps some working on the outside, with others in the slot.
Boykin had been primarily a slot cornerback during his time with the Eagles, but is a player who believes that he can play on the boundary, and as we have seen, the Steelers are not shy about their willingness to overlook certain physical limitations for players who have particular traits.
The fourth-year cornerback’s seven interceptions in the last two years—six in 2013 when he was healthier and had a bigger role—is potentially a great get. While they added several defensive backs with college-level ball skills through the draft, Boykin is a player who has shown the ability to take away the ball in bunches at the professional level against NFL-quality starting quarterbacks.
The addition of Boykin, bottom line, simply has a high floor, which is exactly what they needed. And he has an opportunity to climb the rungs. If Cortez Allen stumbles, which is a legitimate concern, the newest Steeler could potentially fill that role. Or it could clarify what they want to do with William Gay, who has been moving around from the outside to the slot. But this is a journey that we’re just beginning, with plenty of time to work out the details.