The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: Brandon Boykin
Experience: 4 Years
Former Eagles slot cornerback Brandon Boykin became an immediate fan favorite when the Steelers traded a conditional fifth-round pick for him early in training camp, no doubt primarily due to the fact that he had six interceptions in 2013. But the reality is that he was traded for to replace rookie Senquez Golson on the roster, not necessarily to fulfill a specific purpose, and that has been hard to sit on for most of those who believe the team misused him.
To be clear, even Boykin himself has said that he believes the conditions of his trade played a role in the fact that it was not until late in the season that he began to get on the field. The condition was that if Boykin logged 60 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, then the draft pick with become a fourth-rounder.
Of course, he didn’t even get anywhere near that benchmark—less than half of it, in fact—and several of us have explained why the theory never made much sense in the first place. If they wanted to assure that his snap count was below a certain threshold they simply could have limited his snaps in every game to about 50 percent.
But to put it another way, if they thought he was the difference between a Super Bowl championship or not, then they assuredly would have viewed losing a fourth-round pick instead of a fifth-round pick an absolute bargain.
The Steelers viewed Boykin as a slot corner, as had the Eagles, but they already had their slot corner in William Gay. There have also been claims that Boykin was not immediately up to speed on the playbook, that he ended up on the ground often in practice (as evidenced in his Week Two snaps, where he slipped twice), and that they were not confident in his tackling ability, all of which likely played a role in his playing time being delayed until late in the season.
Of course, when the Steelers finally did put him on the field, he logged about 70 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, playing essentially exclusively in the slot. By and large, he did a credible job, although not the Pro Bowl performance many were expecting.
A week into free agency now, I have yet to hear any team having direct interest in signing the four-year veteran that is not pure speculation and rumor. While I would not let that get your hopes up about the Steelers potentially re-signing him, or his willingness to return, given his buying into a conspiracy theory about his playing time, it is worthy of note.