You know who really loves late-addition cornerbacks? Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin. Man, I would say that I don’t even know where to begin telling you how much he loves adding cornerbacks late into the roster-building process, but that would be a lie, because I can just start right from the beginning.
The Steelers traded for cornerback Allen Rossum on September 1, 2007, the final cut-down day of Tomlin’s rookie season as a head coach. They gave up a seventh-round pick for the aging veteran and used him as a return specialist. He lasted one season.
He somehow avoided the temptation for a while after that, although he did trade for Bryant McFadden during the 2010 NFL Draft. That seemed to get his beak wet, and so he tried to kick the tires on veteran Kevin Dockery the following year, but he stuck to the 90-man roster for just a few days.
But after that, it was on.
It’s happened every year since then. In 2012, the Steelers added DeMarcus Van Dyke. They signed him a week after the final cuts, just before the season started, and he played on special teams, as they coveted his speed. He was placed on injured reserve in December, and they replaced him with Justin King, who was another veteran. He started 12 games for the Rams the year before.
They got their full of both Van Dyke and King, however, and neither made the roster the following year. But they did claim Antwon Blake off waivers, and he instantly found success on special teams. The following year he developed into a nickel role, and then started the year after before moving on in free agency.
The cornerback addition of 2014 was B.W. Webb, a fourth-round pick of the Cowboys the year before. He was claimed off waivers the day before the final cuts were made, but he made the team and stuck there all year. He played on special teams and got a handful of snaps as a dime corner, but didn’t make the roster the following year.
In 2015, of course, they just couldn’t help themselves. They gave up a fifth-round pick for Brandon Boykin, who late in the season became their primary nickel back, but struggled to see the field prior to that. They also signed Ross Cockrell to the 53-man roster on the final cut day. He played a big role that year and is entering his second season as a full-time starter.
The Steelers traded for Justin Gilbert last year, giving up a sixth-round draft pick to do so. He only saw a few snaps on defense and played some on special teams, but they released him earlier this year. He has since been suspended by the league.
And now, just yesterday, Tomlin and the team have added to their illustrious heritage of making late additions at cornerback by trading for Dashaun Phillips, a third-year player who started in the nickel against them last year in the season opener.
They only gave up a four-team center that they had signed a week earlier in order to acquire him, so it wasn’t exactly a costly move. Considering the history of these players making the roster for at least a year—usually just that one year, with Blake and Cockrell the only exceptions—he has a chance, but maybe not as good as many others in the past, not with their cornerback depth this year.