The Pittsburgh Steelers have, by and large, been on an upward swing over the course of the past two and a half seasons after they missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and failed to win a postseason game in four straight years.
Last season saw them gain that elusive playoff victory, though they came up short with about three minutes left in the Divisional round a week later. Their offense took off, and their defense improved, showing playmaking ability and opportunism.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions facing the team as we crack into free agency territory. As an exercise, we like to take a stab at some of those questions, presenting arguments for the pros and cons of each side of the coin. This is the optimist’s take on the following question.
Question: Will Senquez Golson be able to play outside for the Steelers in their system?
This is a really interesting question because it comes with it a lot of implications. The Steelers drafted cornerback Senquez Golson in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft in spite of the fact that he comes in at under 5’9”. He missed the entirety of his rookie season beginning with training camp, so we really have no questions answered about him. Can he play as an outside cornerback for the team, or will he be limited to playing in the slot?
It would be unfortunate, though not terrible, if the Steelers drafted a cornerback within the first two rounds that they only envisioned playing in their nickel defense, even if it comes at a time when the team is shifting to a defense that features five or more defensive backs 70 percent of the time or more.
To be sure, that is a significant amount of playing time, and logging over 700 snaps this season would be a massive leap forward to the zero snaps that he took during his rookie season, which was spent entirely on injured reserve.
But when going back to his college tape, there is nothing in the way that he plays that would indicate that he can’t play on the outside, even if he measures up at just slightly above 5’8.5”. His Combine numbers, while not eye-popping, show that of a player who can play above his height, and, more importantly, that is also what the film study reveals.
Most impressive in his arsenal is the fluidity of his footwork and his ability to track the man and the ball, skills that would lend itself well to playing both on the inside and on the outside. He also figures to have the mental acuity to adapt well to the Steelers’ zone concepts that they employ.
The Steelers clearly wanted to play William Gay in the slot last season, which they did more or less until they had no other option. This year, they may decide between Gay and Golson as the slot corner, with Golson likely coming onto the field in the nickel. But the tape suggests that when he comes in, he can line up outside. It will be up to what the coaching staff wants to do with him and how he looks in camp.