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: How should the Steelers go about replacing cornerback Senquez Golson?
This is the obvious question to ask today when you consider the news that came out last night, with beat reporters learning that Senquez Golson is believed to have suffered a Lisfranc injury that threatens to sideline him, potentially, for the entirety of the 2016 season.
Golson is, of course, the second-year former second-round draft pick who missed the entirety of his rookie season with a torn labrum. When the Steelers determined that he would be unable to play, they moved to trade for Brandon Boykin, who likely would have played an even more prominent role had Ross Cockrell not come along later.
Cockrell will have to be one answer in the secondary now, likely starting across from William Gay in their 3-4 defense. From the early looks of things, it seems that rookie safety Sean Davis may simply slide into the slot in place of Golson, who had been working there with the first-team defense prior to his injury.
But other options remain to them, and the Steelers may certainly mix and match during the season if it comes down to it. One option is to have Gay slide into the slot in order to give rookie first-round pick Artie Burns a couple of series per game or so.
The Steelers rotated at cornerback a bit early in the season, and then late in the year as well one Boykin was mixed into the defense, so it’s certainly possible that they utilize both Davis in the slot and Burns on the outside on varying occasions. Doran Grant or some other cornerback may enter the picture as well.
It is not outside of the realm of possibility, either, that the team turns to an outside cornerback again, as they did with Boykin last year. One possibility, if he is healthy, is to sign former Bengals cornerback Leon Hall, who had back surgery after the season, yet played in 14 games and intercepted two passes.
Once again, the Steelers have no choice but to play the hand they are dealt, and in that hand is the injury card, afflicting Golson for the second year in a row. How they determine to adjust remains to be seen, and will no doubt be played out over the course of training camp and the preseason as they experiment with the possibilities.