The Pittsburgh Steelers are three games into their 2015 regular season, and in spite of injuries at the cornerback position, Brandon Boykin has only received a total of 13 snaps in terms of playing time, two of which came only because starter Antwon Blake was briefly evaluated for a concussion and Boykin was the only other cornerback dressed to come in and play in sub-packages.
It seems a bit of a mystery to most why Boykin has not been receiving playing time. While active for all three games, the Steelers have only intentionally played him in one. He did not see the field on defense in the season opener at all, and in the last game, as mentioned, saw just the two snaps due to the medical intervention on Blake’s behalf.
In the second game against the 49ers, however, in spite of dealing with a groin injury during the week of practice leading up to the game, the Steelers did give Boykin some playing time, subbing him in as the right outside cornerback for two series in place of Blake.
Why did they choose to move away from this game plan for the last game? Could it be because the 49ers had success in running long drives, and thought it best to give Blake some rest? That seems unlikely.
Fifth-year cornerback Cortez Allen has not dressed for the past two game due to a knee injury, and is questionable for tonight. If he remains out, and Boykin still fails to receive playing time, then no doubt it will only fuel the theories over why he is not playing.
There are scattered commenters who believe that the Steelers are limiting Boykin’s playing time in order to limit the compensation that they must give the Eagles, as they traded a conditional fifth-round draft pick that could be bumped up to a fourth-round pick if a playing time escalator is hit.
The truth is that if Boykin were as good as many believe, then the Steelers would gladly forfeit a fourth-round draft pick in order to play him for every snap of the season.
So either Boykin is simply not good enough to warrant giving up a fourth-round pick as opposed to a fifth-round pick, or there is something errant in the notion that the team would withhold playing time during a season for offseason concerns.
It could simply be that the Steelers are satisfied with the performance of the cornerbacks in front of him, including Ross Cockrell, whom the Steelers signed on the day the initial 53-man roster was made. Cockrell has logged 63 snaps over the course of the last two games as the nickel back.
As it currently stands, no matter what the explanation, it seems largely like a wasted trade in hindsight, though they could not have known at the time that they would have the opportunity to sign Cockrell, nor that he would be a quick enough study to play this early. Right now, however, he is merely depth at the expense of a fifth-round pick when many believed he would be pushing for a starting job.