2016 Midseason Review: Cornerbacks

We still have some time to kill before the Pittsburgh Steelers get back on the field, and their bye week happens to have fallen at a pretty appropriate time, so over the course of this week, we are going to bring you a sort of quick-hitter review of how the team has performed on a positional basis.

Position: Cornerbacks

William Gay: By for the Steelers’ most experienced cornerback in his 10th season, William Gay is a team captain this year for a reason. It may be fair to say that his play has begun to slip this year, but he is still good for those savvy veteran plays that he is able to make almost entirely due to his work in the film room. He is also the best tackler in the group.

Ross Cockrell: In his second season with the team after being signed on cut down day last year, Ross Cockrell has emerged as a starter on this defense, and he has had his up moments. The Steelers have used him as a shadow defender, and he has gotten his hands on a number of passes. Of course, there is still a lot of room for improvement in his game, and his run defense leaves much to be desired, but he has improved nicely since last year.

Artie Burns: Coming in as a raw underclassman and missing most of training camp and the preseason, Artie Burns has come a long way—at least in terms of what the coaches think, because apparently he’s going to move into the starting lineup eight games into his rookie season. He has gotten some batted passes, but much of his game has been shaky.

Justin Gilbert: The Steelers traded for Justin Gilbert on cut down day this year, but he hasn’t found his way into the rotation the way Cockrell did a year ago. He has gotten a bit of playing time, but for now he is the odd man out. He does appear to have the kick return job now.

Notes: Obviously, the Steelers brought five cornerbacks into the season, and the fifth one needs at least to be mentioned, that being 2015 second-round draft pick Senquez Golson. The Steelers were excited enough about him that they were willing to carry him on the 53-man roster in spite of the fact that he was injured in the hopes that he could return this year, but they ultimately could no longer afford the roster spot as injuries mounted.

There was, of course, another fifth cornerback briefly as well, that being Al-Hajj Shabazz, who was called up from the practice squad when the position was hit by injuries. He even played a handful of snaps in the one game he was up for, and was a contributor on special teams.

Of course, the real fifth cornerback has been rookie second-round safety Sean Davis, who started the season as the nickel defender, with Burns as the dime defender. But when Burns was bumped up to the nickel, Gay moved into the slot, and Davis’ play has been limited since then.

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