For the first time in several years, there are high hopes for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary. Carnell Lake is hoping for his corners to continue the strong play they showed at the end of 2016.
Sitting down with Missi Matthews on Steelers.com, Lake kept it simple with his expectations of Ross Cockrell and Artie Burns this year.
“We’d like to see them take the experience and progression they had, especially towards the end of the season last year,” he told Matthews. “Both of them really came on well for us and starting to really play down the stretch. Made some really big plays. We’d like to see them continue that this year.”
Burns and Cockrell are expected to open the season as the starting corners. Burns is coming off a rocky year but one where, as Lake points out, he showed real progression after starting several games, increasing his reps, and learning from his mistakes.
Cockrell is in the prime of his career, fully-versed in the defense and showing more strength and acting as a better tackler, two areas he struggled with back in 2015. Throughout most of last year, he was the Steelers’ best man corner, though I’m sure there’s hopes Burns can surpass him as quickly as this season.
Some more splash would be a welcome sight from the pair. Combined, they forced three turnovers last year, all of which came in the way of Burns’ interceptions. Cockrell especially needs to make those high-impact plays, as does the rest of the secondary, who struggled on the whole and took a step backwards from 2015, despite seeming to add better athletes and talent than the year prior.
Burns will have to do the same but also show the consistency Cockrell showed. A flighty rookie season doesn’t come as a surprise but it’s an area he has to address nonetheless.