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: Who will be the top backup outside cornerback at the start of the season, and at the end?
This could be a longer one, so I’m just going to go straight into weighing in. Like last season, the readiness of younger players could contribute here. Artie Burns wasn’t ready to start the season, so William Gay had to play outside, forcing them to play Sean Davis in the slot. Once Burns was ready, Gay kicked inside.
If Cameron Sutton or Senquez Golson are ready to start the season and line up in the slot over Gay, then the veteran could be the top cornerback off the bench at all three position. Even if he is starting in the slot, the readiness of Golson and/or Sutton would make it easier to move Gay outside if need be.
But Coty Sensabaugh is also in the discussion here as a player who the Steelers view as capable of playing outside or inside. He has decent enough size and speed to hold up there and is the most experienced option outside of Gay, who may be a more viable option to play in man coverage.
Things can change by the end of the year, however, and at this point we could be talking about Sutton, who was already logging time on the outside during OTAs and is in no way explicitly targeted to play in the slot exclusively. I don’t want to get too far out on a limb, though, and throw Brian Allen’s name out there. No matter how much he might be able to grow in one season, it probably still won’t be enough to trust him to start outside if an injury fill-in is necessary.
There is no cornerback more experienced in the Steelers’ system than Gay, so he is always going to be an option, whether it is at the beginning of the season or at the end. He has always managed to find a way on the field as those ahead of him either struggled or broke down physically.
But many have viewed Sensabaugh as the potential replacement for Gay, a veteran who has less mileage on the tires who could fill a similar role. Ultimately it seems to me it will be one of these two. If Gay is starting in the slot, then Sensabaugh is the more likely, of course, so as not to disrupt multiple positions.
Which side do you lean closer toward?