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 pessimist’s take on the following question.
Question: Will Senquez Golson be able to play outside for the Steelers in their system?
As far as Senquez Golson and his acquisition goes, what’s done is already done. In spite of reservations from many, the Steelers selected him in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, but before he could even take a snap in training camp, a torn labrum ended his rookie season, leaving the guessing game about his future to continue.
That he never even made it to training camp keeps us guessing as to how the team is really even thinking about using him. Though he was an outside cornerback in college, many such players end up in the slot at the professional level, often due to size or fundamental issues.
Golson is under 5’9” and pretty lightweight. When asked about his tackling ability after the draft, Tomlin more or less responded that he’s done enough. But the reality is that the feature that attracted them was his eye-popping 10 interceptions, and there’s no getting around that.
Perhaps the case of Brandon Boykin might offer some insight as to Golson’s future, though I would of course caution using one player as a one-to-one comparison for another in a case study. It is worth noting, however, that the Steelers were pretty clear in identifying Boykin as more or less strictly a slot cornerback, and not one that they would be comfortable plying on the outside.
Boykin is also on the shorter end of the spectrum—not that the team has shied away from shorter players on the outside, with obvious contrary examples at the ready—but there have also been questions about his consistency and tackling ability.
With no prior playing experience, Golson obviously has all sorts of questions surrounding him, including whether or not he can tackle at the professional level, considering he has never even put on pads against professional players before.
It would be of great benefit if Golson shows himself to be a player who can line up anywhere on the field. But whether or not that is realistic remains to be seen, and largely hinges upon whether or not the Steelers really give him a long look on the outside. There are obvious areas of interest that point against that happening, as mentioned above, but the heavy investment in him could have them do otherwise.