Whether listed under “con” or “weakness”, depending on how the particular scout or platform formats its reports, one of the ever-present areas of concern in the game of cornerback Ross Cockrell has been a limitation in his strength and physicality on the field, which is generally not what you want from your six-foot cornerback.
Alex Kozora used this issue in Cockrell’s game as the flagship topic in his new One Step to Take series, detailing the third-year Pittsburgh Steelers’ cornerback’s struggles with the physical element of his game last season, and he had a number of examples to choose from in last year’s game tape.
As it currently stands, it figures to be likely that Cockrell will begin the 2016 regular season as the Steelers’ starting left outside cornerback, which is where he played in the team’s nickel defense last season, though he did not play in the base—and that was partly because of his lack of strength.
After logging over 600 defensive snaps last season, however, the third-year man entering his first offseason with the Steelers realized just how important it is to be physical and to get stronger on the NFL level. As you might remember, he hardly played at all during his rookie season in Buffalo, so his playing time last year was a bit of a wakeup call.
Cockrell told reporters recently that it was “definitely necessary” for him to add strength over the course of this offseason, as Jacob Klinger quoted him as saying for Penn Live. The cornerback is listed at 191 pounds, which is quite thin for his height (for comparison, 5’10” cornerback Doran Grant is listed at 200 pounds).
The most enlightening experience for him was going up against bigger wide receivers on Sundays, such as A.J. Green of the Bengals and Demaryius Thomas for the Broncos, both of whom the Steelers played at least twice in 2015, Cincinnati having been faced three times.
“These receivers are big”, he said, “so it’s necessary if I want to take on the role that I want to take on this year”. That would, of course, be a starting job, which he did not have last year, at least not in the base defense, and he was eventually rotated out of the nickel often late in the year as well.
The fact that he is conceding nothing to the Steelers’ recent high draft picks—second-round pick Senquez Golson in 2014, who will hopefully return to practice this week, and first-round pick Artie Burns in 2015—is also very encouraging, in that it is simply driving him even harder to improve his game so that he can slip into the starting lineup.
Klinger notes that Cockrell spent time down in Miami earlier this offseason working with Pete Bommarito, who works with many NFL talents on strength, speed, and conditioning, and is a name that should be familiar to Steelers fans. The writer also noted that he “looks and feels” stronger as he was working against Markus Wheaton in press coverage drills.