The Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback that they picked up in August, just 10 months ago, really opened some eyes last season and figures poised to make himself a regular presence in that secondary meeting room over the course of the next several years.
The cornerback I am referring to is not, obviously Brandon Boykin, who is still looking for a team after signing with the Panthers and then being passed over during two visits, but rather Ross Cockrell, a third-year player they signed after he was waived by the Bills.
Cockrell knows the deal, that the Steelers are getting in two new high draft picks at his position this autumn in Senquez Golson and Artie Burns. For him, it was a good thing, and an expected one. “We didn’t really have anyone”, he told reporters, as Chris Bradford wrote for the Beaver County Times.
“I expected them to make a move. I’m very happy that they did. We got some added talent and some added depth”, he continued. But that doesn’t mean he is preparing to give up his position, and he has plenty of reason to believe that he can run with the first-team defense all through the year, not just in the spring.
This is, after all, the first full offseason with the Steelers for Cockrell as much as it is for Golson and Burns, the former spending his rookie season on injured reserve and missing the entirety of training camp. The former Bill didn’t really have a chance to catch his breath as he spent most of his time during the season with the team just trying to wrap his brain around the game plan being put in place for that week.
He told Bradford that “it’s just totally different” to be able to spend the offseason with the team rather than just start playing with a group of guys you’ve just met. “I get to really get to know people, not just game plan and prepare for battle”, he said. “It’s nice being here, getting to know people. They get to see how I play on the field and how I am off the field”.
When it comes to being on the field, Cockrell learned some lessons about what it takes to endure a full NFL season after logging nearly 700 snaps last year. While he put on some muscle this offseason, he said, “I still want to be stronger, to really go through the wear and tear of a season”.
He will have to if he means to enter the starting lineup in 2015. Last year, while he logged a significant amount of playing time, all of that time came in the Steelers’ nickel defense. If he intends to play in the base defense, he will have to draw far more responsibilities in the run game.
Bradford wrote that Cockrell was “all over the ball” during spring drills, “a batted pass in the end zone here, an interception there”. He intercepted two passes, forced one fumble, and recovered a couple during the 2015 season, and he plans to continue being around the ball for the Steelers this year.