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2016 Camp Questions: Who Will Benefit From Golson’s Vacant Roster Spot?

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: Which fringe roster player will benefit from the roster spot vacated via Senquez Golson’s injury?

By now, it seems all but certain that second-year cornerback Senquez Golson will begin the 2016 on the injured reserve list, though whether or not there will be any realistic opportunity for him to come off it during the year is yet to be determined, and could hinge on whether or not his injury requires surgery.

In the meantime, however, his situation creates a roster spot opening for somebody who otherwise would not have been there, since Golson was virtually assured of making the roster, as he is a former high draft pick and had been running with the first-team defense in the slot.

One thing that seems obvious is that the Steelers are less likely to carry six cornerbacks now than they were before Golson’s injury, though I, and I believe most, have suspected that they may only carry five even with Golson.

Still, with him out of the picture, there are left as locks only William Gay, Ross Cockrell, and the rookie, Artie Burns. In the interim, rookie safety Sean Davis is playing in the slot, in a role that makes it all the more unlikely that a sixth cornerback is carried into the season.

Based on yesterday’s practice, it might be said that Donald Washington has as good a shot as any to make the roster. The former Chiefs defensive back who signed a Reserve/Future contract with the Steelers following a tryout worked with the first-team defense while Gay and Burns sat out practice.

Though it’s quite early in the proceedings, it is notable that he ran ahead of Doran Grant in that case, who was a fourth-round pick a year ago. Grant spent half the season in 2015 on the practice squad, but finished the year on the 53-man roster.

But two other Reserve/Future signings, Montell Garner and Al-Hajj Shabazz, have both been drawing interest, both from observers and coaches. Shabazz’s 6’2” frame in particular offers intrigue. The Steelers added 5’9” undrafted rookie Kevin White to the roster yesterday, who was a favorite among some here during the draft. All will have the opportunity to compete for a roster spot over the course of the next month.

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