Steelers Film Room: Al-Hajj Shabazz Vs Eagles

As has been discussed fairly amply by now, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in a bit of a bind when it comes to looking for and finding quality depth at the cornerback position, especially after Senquez Golson was injured. It’s serious enough that they’re kicking the tires on another old re-tread who has spent the past few years in New Orleans.

There are, as I see it, only three players who are pure cornerbacks who can be regarded as locks to make the roster—the two starters and the rookie first-rounder who is unlikely to even play unless in an emergency. Sean Davis has to be considered part of the depth, at least halfway, since he is playing in the slot.

Doran Grant at this point seems a decent bet to make the roster this year as well. But there should still be room for another player. Montell Garner is one option already on the 90-man roster, but there are those who are intrigued by the 6’2” Al-Hajj Shabazz as well, and it is not without reason based on some of his play against the Eagles.

Shabazz checked into the game with the Steelers’ third-team personnel to start the second half, beginning as the left outside cornerback. He got his first touch immediately, in on a tackle after a five-yard run on the first play of the half, though it was negated by a hold. He had to avoid a teammate to do so.

A couple minutes on the same drive, he showed just a bit of a penchant for physicality in coming back from covering what appears to be a post route to clean up a tackle on an underneath throw. He settled the receiver down with a bit of an oomph to make sure that he would be brought down.

Still later, actually on the same drive, yet midway through the quarter, he had one-on-one coverage from the five-yard line against Dorial Green-Beckham, playing him a couple yards off the ball. He used his body positioning to allow him to keep his eyes in the backfield and spot the throw, leaping to tap the pass harmlessly away.

Toward the end of the third quarter, Shabazz got one of only a small handful of special teams reps that I was able to find without the coaches’ tape, but he worked as a vice jammer on the punt return unit. Without a full view of the play there is not a lot to discern until the end of the run, where you can see him drive the gunner out of bounds and onto the ground.

Finally, the first-year cornerback moved to the right side in the fourth quarter, and on his first snap on that side of the field he showed the willingness to be physical again, putting a hard shoulder into the pass-catcher after a reception to send him spilling out of bounds.

It’s unfortunate that there are so overhead views of plays during the preseason, which makes it more difficult to evaluate the secondary, but we get in these examples at least a glimpse of Shabazz, who I would think may at least stick around on the practice squad.


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