I wrote earlier today about Pittsburgh Steelers second-year outside linebacker Bud Dupree, who is expected to enter the starting lineup on a more full-time basis than he experienced during his rookie season, and how his progress from year one to year two is perhaps the single-most important development that the team can have in terms of its impact on the coming season.
But he is not alone when it comes to the second-year players upon whom the Steelers are anticipating, perhaps even relying upon, a big year. While Sammie Coates and Jesse James will have their expectations accelerated because of the suspension of Martavis Bryant and the retirement of Heath Miller, respectively, the second-year player outside of Dupree upon whom the most is riding is unequivocally second-round cornerback Senquez Golson.
The 5’9” cornerback was taken in the second round, earlier than most draft analysts had predicted, and his selection by a Steelers team with a poor recent reputation for defensive back evaluation drew quite a bit of ire.
His subsequent shoulder injury suffered during the team’s minicamp, and the eventual surgery that followed and landed him on the Steelers’ injured reserve list for the entirety of his rookie season, certainly did nothing to assuage his, and the team’s, doubters.
But perhaps the fact that he was looking rather impressive to his teammates prior to his injury, during OTA sessions, could help salve the wound a bit. Back when he was still a member of the organization, Antwon Blake told Chris Adamski for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he was “doing good things” prior to his injury, “looking very much the part of a ballhawk”.
Golson, of course, intercepted 16 passes during his collegiate career, including 10 interceptions during his final season prior to entering the draft as an underclassman. It had been the second time he was drafted, when previously the Red Sox attempted to draw him to baseball as a center fielder.
Perhaps, also, the fact that Golson received the ‘clear’ signal to begin resuming football activities back on the first of January, according to Adamski’s article, will also help to bring some comfort to those who are wondering what the young cornerback will be able to bring to the table in 2016.
While he was sidelined from the playing field with his shoulder injury during his rookie season, however, that is not to say that he was not engaged with his teammates, or with his playbook. Golson told Adamski that veteran cornerback William Gay was a sort of role model for the young playmaker nearly a decade his junior.
While Golson may be entering his second season in many ways a rookie—and the Steelers may even have spoken of him as a sort of additional draft pick, because they did not have his services a year ago—the fact is that he has been around the team for close to a year now, and understands what is expected of him. If he can deliver as expected, that will be a major boon for a rebuilding defensive unit.