At this same time last year, Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ross Cockrell was with the Buffalo Bills in their training camp competing for a roster spot. While he ultimately failed to achieved that goal, it turned out to be a blessing of sorts for him as he entered the Steelers 2016 training camp as the starter opposite veteran William Gay.
Recently, Cockrell talked about the changes that have transpired in his young career over the course of the last year during an interview with Steelers Nation Radio.
“Last year at this time I was in Buffalo moving along and this year it’s been kind of a 180,” said Cockrell, who was drafted by the Bills in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Duke. “I’m definitely in a good place, I feel like we got a very talented team, so I’m looking forward to big things this year.”
After being signed by the Steelers just prior to the start of the 2015 regular season following his release from the Bills, Cockrell found himself on the team’s inactive list for the Week 1 opener against the New England Patriots. However, after then-starting cornerback Cortez Allen was injured in that game against the Patriots, Cockrell proceeded to dress the remainder of the season and was used quite extensively on defense at the outside cornerback position mostly in the team’s nickel sub package.
Cockrell having to learn the Steelers defense on the fly last year had to be quite challenging and he not only talked about topic during his recent interview, but also how the younger defensive backs currently on the team’s roster are coming along this year in their attempts to pick up the defense.
“It’s definitely difficult,” said Cockrell, who registered 44 total tackles, 11 defensed passes, 2 interceptions and a forced fumble in his first season with the Steelers. “There’s a lot of ins and outs and a lot of things that you see the X’s and O’s and then when you get on the field it kind of changes on you a little bit. So I think the young guys are doing very well in picking it up and playing within the scheme, something that I tried to do as well last year when I got here.”
As the Steelers enter their second half of this year’s training camp, Cockrell feels like he’s still learning and developing as a cornerback as well in the Steelers system.
“I’m starting to get a lot comfortable,” said Cockrell. “I missed this time last year, so it’s been nice to really get to know my teammates and them get to know me and figure out some of the nuisances of our schemes.”
With rookie first-round draft pick Artie Burns unlikely to unseat Cockrell as a starter this year out of training camp, the Duke product will certainly be given every opportunity to show that he can keep that spot for years to come. While he doesn’t have any particular statistical goals right now for the upcoming 2016 season, he does have overarching goals nonetheless.
“I just want to be a playmaker,” said Cockrell. “I just want to be somebody that gets my hands on the ball as much as possible. So that’s what I want to do, I want to be somebody that creates turnovers and disrupt the receivers.”