Devil’s Advocate: Growth From Ross Cockrell

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Will we see continued growth and improvement from Ross Cockrell?

Pittsburgh’s interest in former Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell began before the 2014 NFL Draft. He was a player that they liked coming out, in spite of the fact that they drafted Doran Grant instead of him in the same round in which he was taken.

When he became available the following year, they picked him up, and since then he has worked his way into the starting lineup after proving to be a quick study and being able to contribute literally within weeks of joining the team.

But we are past the training wheels phase, and the Steelers have Super Bowl aspirations. Whether or not the Steelers believe they can win a Super Bowl with him in the starting lineup could determine the sort of playing time he ends up seeing, but the odds favor him playing the entire season in the starting lineup.

There are some beat writers who wrote about Senquez Golson last season that the team would like to see him win a starting job. Is that still a possibility? His man-coverage skills at least would be favored. A rookie taken in the first or second round could also offer competition at least by midseason.

Assuming that he doesn’t face competition, however, how will he actually play? For starters, while he did get his hands on a good number of balls, he didn’t manage to intercept any of them. Being able to make a couple of plays here and there is something the defense is looking to prioritize more. He does have some ball skills but they didn’t surface a year ago.

Strength, both in terms of fighting off wide receivers as well as blockers, should be a priority. He talked about getting stronger last offseason, but any different was fairly negligible. He needs to do more in that area.

The Steelers are looking to play more man coverage. That means he will probably be asked to play more man coverage. Is it something that he can sustain over the course of a game for an extended period of time? While he did ‘trail’ a couple of wide receivers for select portions of games a year ago, the defense heavily varied their coverages to ease his burden. I don’t know that he has the mechanics to excel here.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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