You have probably read by now of rumblings of possible changes being felt out in the secondary. Veteran cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, who was brought in this spring on a two-year, $2.6 million deal, confirmed to reporters that he received a large number of snaps with the first-team defense opposite Artie Burns in yesterday’s practice.
He said that it was the most that he had gotten with the first-team defense when the starting cornerbacks have been healthy since he arrived in Pittsburgh, so the fact that we would suddenly be seeing this now certainly cannot be dismissed as insignificant.
In case you haven’t pieced it together yet, Sensabaugh running with the first-team defense along with Burns means that Ross Cockrell was not, at least for those reps. The fourth-year cornerback started 19 games last season, including the playoffs, and was retained in 2017 on an original-round restricted free agent tender. He was presumed to be a starter again this year.
But it was never guaranteed. The Steelers pursued a number of options at cornerback during free agency, even if most led to dead ends. The most notable miss was when they hosted Davon House, only to watch him sign with another team while he was in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Previously, Cockrell had pretty much said, or at least implied, that the Steelers indicated to him that they could try to replace him in the starting lineup. After two major gaffes in Sunday’s preseason game—one in the red zone that should have allowed a touchdown, and another on which he was burned over the top for a 44-yard reception—we found him spending much of his reps not working with the starters in the first practice back.
Sensabaugh, who has been around long enough, did not play into it. Chris Adamski quoted him as saying, “I don’t focus on that”, referring to the possibility of starting. “I just focus on things I can control”.
“Whatever happens, happens”.
A lot happened to him a year ago. After becoming a full-time starter for the Titans in 2015, he signed a three-year, $14.5 million contract with the Rams in free agency, only to get benched two games into the season, and released a few games later.
He ended up rebounding and landing with the Giants, managing to carve out a sub-package role in the slot for himself by the end of the season, but he doesn’t regret how things played out. In fact, he said that he appreciates the fact that the Rams cut him, “as crazy as that sounds”.
This would not be the first time in recent years the Steelers could potentially make last-minute changes on the defensive side of the ball. Heading into the 2015 season, they swapped Shamarko Thomas at safety and Cortez Allen in the starting lineup in favor of Will Allen and Antwon Blake, respectively.
This is just one practice, however, and there are still two preseason game to play. Still, at the very least, it indicates that the Steelers are exploring their options. I’m sure they wish Cameron Sutton and Senquez Golson hadn’t missed most of training camp as well.