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Countdown To Steelers Camp: 50 In 25 Series – Ross Cockrell 2017 Preview

The calendar has now flipped over to July and that means the Pittsburgh Steelers annual training camp will be getting underway in Latrobe later this month. As usual, we have several series planned to get you ready for this year’s training camp and mine will center around preview profiles of 50 players over the course of the next 25 days. Most of these profiles will be on players who were under contract with the team in 2016.

Up tenth in this series is a 2017 preview profile of cornerback Ross Cockrell.

Intro: Naysayers aside, Cockrell’s first full season as the Steelers starter went well and probably better than most expected it to go. The former fourth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills allowed 0.87 yards per cover snap last season and that was 15th-best in the NFL, according to PFF. Additionally, Cockrell only gave up just two scores over 93 total targets, including the playoffs, according to their charting. He was by no means the weakest link in the Steelers secondary last season.

Current Strengths: Cockrell’s biggest asset is perhaps his football IQ and ability to decipher route combinations and fully understand his assignments. He has also shown a good knack for clicking and closing effectively while undercutting routes at the last second to break up passes. Also, very rarely do you see him beat over the top in both zone and press coverages and when he is beat, often times he does a good job of getting himself back in phase and thus giving himself a chance. While he failed to record an interception last season, he was in the right place at the right time on a few other passes he should’ve come up with.

Current Weaknesses: While he has matched up well at times with bigger and stronger wide receivers during his career, Cockrell can’t really be viewed as an overly physical player himself. He’s not as assertive as you would like him to be against the run at times and not very combative at other times on contested passes. His lack of play-making is perhaps his biggest weakness, however, and especially when it comes to forcing interceptions and fumbles. He needs to work on getting his eyes better in coverage and head around more quickly in order to find the football while in flight. He also isn’t known as very consistent tackler in space. He was also penalized seven times during the regular season and that was second to only fellow Steelers cornerback Artie Burns when it comes to defensive players.

2017 Outlook: Cockrell is on track to open the 2017 regular season as a starter just as he did last year. How long he holds onto that job will likely depend entirely on how well he plays and how quickly the younger cornerbacks on the roster can close the gap on him. With the Steelers expected to play even more man coverage in 2017, it will be interesting to see if Cockrell can continue to flourish. He must, however, make more splash plays than he has so far regardless of scheme and has to become a more willing and able run game defender. Another double-digit passes defensed season isn’t out of the question in 2017 for Cockrell and three to four interceptions might be his ceiling and very welcomed if he can achieve those numbers.

2017 Base Salary: $1,797,000

2017 Salary Cap Charge: $1,797,000

2017 Health Status: No known ailments exiting offseason program

2016 Health Status: Zero games missed last season due to injury

2016 Regular Season Snaps Played: 1,025 of 1,046

2016 Stat That Matters: Led team in regular season passes defensed with 14

2016 Stats:

G Comb Total Ast Sck SFTY PDef Int Yds TDs FF
16 62 47 15 0 14 0 0 0

2016 Highlights:

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Ben Roethlisberger Cameron Heyward Jesse James James Harrison Antonio Brown
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