Several fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers are still upset that the team didn’t use cornerback Brandon Boykin very much for a good portion of the 2015 season after acquiring him during training camp via a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. While we may never know the real reason behind that decision, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert at least offered up his stance on Boykin’s limited use for most of the season during his annual pre-combine talk with the media.
Here is the quote from Colbert on Boykin that was sent to us Wednesday morning from Will Graves of the Associated Press per our request.
“When we made the trade for Boykin, we knew that Senquez [Golson] was done for the year. And then Ross Cockrell was someone we didn’t have on the roster when we made the trade. But, Cockrell was a guy we liked in the previous year’s draft. When we brought Ross in after we traded for Brandon, Ross surpassed what Brandon was able to do for us, especially being an outside corner. Brandon was more of an inside corner.”
To rewind back, the Steelers acquired Boykin from the Eagles on August 1 as a result of rookie second round draft pick Senquez Golson being done for the year because of a shoulder injury that he apparently suffered during the team’s OTA practices. However, just prior to the start of the regular season, the Steelers signed cornerback Ross Cockrell to their 53-man roster following his release from the Buffalo Bills.
The Steelers then proceeded to open the 2015 season with William Gay and Antwon Blake as their starting cornerbacks with Cortez Allen coming in off of the bench to play outside when the team utilized their nickel package. While Boykin was active for that game, he didn’t play a single defensive snap and the same goes for Cockrell, who did not dress for the game.
After Allen suffered a knee injury against the Patriots in the opener, he never played another snap for the remainder of the season and as a result, Cockrell was forced into heavy action in the Week 2 game against the San Francisco 49ers as he was the first man off the bench in the team’s nickel package. He played 37 snaps in that game while Boykin saw the field for just 9 snaps, most of which came in the fourth quarter.
From Week 3 through Week 12 of the season, Boykin played all of 12 snaps on defense with most of those coming in the Week 7 game against the Kansas City Chiefs. However, he likely wouldn’t have played at all in that game had Blake not left for a spell with a possible concussion. It wasn’t until the Steelers Week 13 game against the Indianapolis Colts when Boykin finally started to see the field on a more regular basis as the team’s slot cornerback as Cockrell and Blake mostly rotated outside opposite Gay moving forward.
In summation, the Steelers never viewed Boykin as an outside corner and he only was going to see time there had injuries occurred, but I’m sure most of you have already came to that conclusion by now. However, had the Steelers not been able to sign Cockrell at the start of the season, I’m willing to bet that Boykin would have eventually seen some playing time in the slot as he was technically the team’s fourth cornerback after the preseason concluded. In other words, after Allen went down injured, it would’ve been Gay and Blake outside with Boykin manning the slot in sub packages.
While Colbert hasn’t ruled out the possibility of the team re-signing Boykin this offseason, you can bet the Steelers only value him as slot cornerback. It will now be interesting to see if other teams view Boykin the same way during free agency. Even if that winds up happening, the fact that sub package defenses have now essentially become the base schemes for most teams in the NFL, it should result in Boykin having a higher market value than what the Steelers will be willing to pay. We’ll know for sure if that’s the case with the start of the new league year now less than three weeks away.