Training camp is now upon us, in case you have failed to take notice. The Pittsburgh Steelers reported to Latrobe on July 28, and began practicing the following day in preparation for their first preseason game on August 12, and eventually, for the 2016 regular season in April.
Every NFL season is like an investigation of sorts, with the offseason and preseason serving as the fact-finding portion, gathering the questions that are most prudent to ask in order to understand the story of the team in the current season. And it is in training camp that we really begin to start finding the answers to those questions.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in training camp and the preseason looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they head into a regular season in which they are among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.
Question: Can Doran Grant be a defensive contributor this year?
During the 2015 NFL Draft, it seemed as though fans were more excited about the prospect of the Steelers drafting Ohio State cornerback Doran Grant in the fourth round than they were about fellow cornerback Senquez Golson in the second.
While part of that was attributed to the fact that Golson was considered to be a reach, and Grant maybe even a bit of a value pick at that point, I suspect there are few who would still argue that Grant is a better player than Golson, even with the latter’s near inability to see a practice field in two years.
In fact, it has been Golson’s numerous injury woes that may potentially carve out an opportunity upon which Grant can seize this year, maybe even to contribute to the defense, which seemed a long way off during last year’s season opener.
While Grant made the initial 53-man roster last season, he was released and exposed to waivers a day later, only to clear waivers and be safely tucked away on the practice squad. With injuries at the cornerback position, he was called up to the 53-man roster halfway through the year.
Since last season, the Steelers have lost three cornerbacks and gained one. They have lost four cornerbacks if you include Golson. In terms of seniority on the roster, among healthy cornerbacks, the only one who has been around longer at this point is William Gay.
Ross Cockrell joined the team just before the regular season, however, and is expected to start across from Gay. Artie Burns was a first-round draft pick, though he is not expected to contribute right away. Sean Davis is currently working in the slot even though he was drafted as a safety.
This would seem to be to leave Grant in a somewhat better position to contribute, particularly in the event of injury, than he was last season. Training camp reports have been mixed, but if he can have a solid preseason—with lack of better options, perhaps—the second-year cornerback may log some time on defense this year.