The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Will the Steelers address the cornerback position with a premium player or gamble on the unknowns at the back end of their own roster?
Over the course of the past two seasons, the Steelers have added cornerbacks to their depth that were drafted in the first round—two of them—as well as one each in the second and the fourth. Only two of them have been a meaningful contributor thus far.
The longest-tenured member of that group would be Senquez Golson, a 2015 second-round draft pick who I suppose will technically be a third-year player in 2017 due to his two stints on injured reserve, despite never even making it to a preseason game year.
The most recent member of the group is Justin Gilbert. Gilbert was a 10-ten pick from the Browns a few years ago for whom they traded in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick in training camp this past season. He saw very few snaps on defense and special teams over the course of the year.
That is some prime pedigree sitting on the bench. The problem is that the Steelers don’t know if there’s any talent to support the draft position yet. Golson hasn’t been able to get on the field due to injuries, while Gilbert joined into the fold too late to find a role for himself. He also dealt with a couple of minor injuries.
Along with Artie Burns, Ross Cockrell, and William Gay—their starting cornerbacks—there is also Al-Hajj Shabazz, a former undrafted free agent, who appeared to move into the fourth cornerback spot over the course of the year.
It would be out of character for the Steelers to address the cornerback position high in the draft once again after using first- and second-round picks there in the past two years, but circumstances could dictate otherwise. Golson and Gilbert are still huge unknowns, and Gay isn’t getting any younger. There could be room for another body in the mix. But if there is, how will the Steelers address it?