The journey toward the 2017 season is now in full swing with the Pittsburgh Steelers having reported to Latrobe for their annual training camp at Saint Vincent College, where they have held their camps for over half a century now.
This is surely the time more than any other in which we find ourselves full of questions that we are looking to get answered, and this also tends to be the best time to get answers to those questions that have been building up over the course of time since the 2016 season ended.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the training camp and the preseason 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: Is Joe Haden a one-for-one replacement for Ross Cockrell, both in the lineup and on the roster?
It’s not often that a team goes into the season just a couple of weeks away and ends up with a new starter that wasn’t even on the team who displaces the player who was in line to start all along, but it’s seeming as though the Steelers may be heading down that road in 2017.
In a surprising move, the Steelers broke character in signing a big-money free agent (for them, anyway), inking former Browns cornerback Joe Haden to a three-year deal worth $27 million, according to reports. The team is obviously not inking somebody to a contract that size without the intention of plugging him into the starting lineup as soon as possible.
And if Haden is in the starting lineup, then that means Cockrell is not. Given that Mike Tomlin had already said that he was competing to keep his job against Coty Sensabaugh, it’s obvious that his grasp on the starting position was already tenuous at best.
Now, however, his roster spot seems to be in jeopardy. Cockrell seems to be the rare player that holds one value and one value only, and that is as a starting outside cornerback. He doesn’t have the short-area quickness or fluidity to kick into the slot, nor does he contribute on special teams, or figure to be a quality contributor.
If he’s not starting, playing in the slot, or contributing on special teams, then, on a deep roster, he may simply find himself displaced. Even somebody like Brian Allen figures to be an option to contribute on special teams, getting a lot of work as a jammer.
With Sensabaugh moving up as the primary outside reserve and Cameron Sutton potentially following behind—with William Gay always an emergency option—Cockrell just got a whole lot more expendable.