Now that Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Brandon Boykin has started seeing extensive playing time on defense we expect it to continue Sunday afternoon against the Cincinnati Bengals. If you were wondering, why we haven’t seen more of Boykin on the field more up until this point, you were not alone. In fact, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about that very thing on Saturday by Bob Labriola of Steelers Digest.
“Opportunities and reps have to be earned,” said Tomlin. “Brandon was new to us and we were getting to know him. The train got going and we were having some consistent success with the mix of people we had. Sometimes you just have to bide your time and wait for your opportunity, and it has nothing to do with what you’ve done or what you didn’t do. That’s just football, but it’s also life.”
Tomlin’s remarks about his defense having consistent success this season are a bit over the top and especially when it comes to cornerback Antwon Blake, who has struggled mightily all season in both the coverage and tackling phases of his game. Tomlin, however, isn’t going to throw Blake underneath the bus.
While Boykin may have had to earn his reps, Blake certainly wasn’t earning the right to stay on the field and especially being as he looked like he was playing injured for the past several weeks.
As of last Sunday, Blake was relegated to mostly playing on run downs as a result of the changes that were made in the Steelers secondary with Ross Cockrell taking over outside on passing downs. In fact, had William Gay not had to leave the field late in that game, Blake’s snap total would’ve been considerably less.
Boykin, on the other hand, made an instant impact in last week’s game as he recorded his first interception of the season in the first quarter in just his second defensive snap. Sure, Gay caused that interception, but at least Boykin was in the right spot to make a play on the football. Boykin also recorded a defensed pass later on it that game.
Sunday against the Bengals it will be interesting to track how Blake is used on defense and specifically if he’s allowed to match-up against wide receiver A.J. Green when his offense utilizes 11 personnel. In the last meeting between the two teams, Green caught 11 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown with several of those catches coming against Blake.
In short, we expect the train to move forward with Boykin playing a lot in the nickel as he’s earned the opportunity due to Blake’s poor play. You’ll never hear Tomlin say that, however.