The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on 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: If you were only keeping five cornerbacks from this group, who would be your choices?
According to Aditi Kinkhabwala, she Tweeted last night that the latest information she was given was that the Steelers only intend to carry five cornerbacks on the 53-man roster, though she did note that their thinking could change by 4 PM today.
Considering that I have them carry seven on the 53-man roster, needless to say, I’m a little bit surprised, but it has also been noted that rookie Cameron Sutton’s hamstring injury might be pretty serious, which means possibly a trip to injured reserve.
The following cornerbacks would likely have to be considered, even as a longshot, in some degree ‘in contention for a roster spot: Artie Burns, Joe Haden, William Gay, Mike Hilton, Coty Sensabaugh, Ross Cockrell, Brian Allen, Senquez Golson, and Sutton.
That’s nine cornerbacks, and you have to remove four, so whom? For most, I would imagine Golson would be the easiest one. He has never made it through a padded practice in three years, so it’s pretty hard to count on him at this point.
Sutton, if his injury is serious enough, would be a safe bet for injured reserve, chopping things down to seven. For me, the fact that Cockrell cannot play inside and doesn’t seem to have much in the way of special teams contributions likely also makes him expendable in the Steelers’ minds.
So we’re down the Burns and Haden, who are obviously going to be their starters. Gay is likely safe at this point because he can play inside and outside, on special teams, and as an emergency safety. The fewer spots you have, the more versatility is valued. So Sensabaugh gets a nod there as well. That’s four.
So it comes down to Hilton and Allen. For some this is easy, and for some hard. Some think Hilton is the easy choice to make the roster, because Allen is still raw. Others thing Allen is the easy choice because his natural traits are more desired and a 5’9” slot-only corner is easier to sneak onto the practice squad.
Allen seems like an outside-only, while Hilton inside-only, but both can contribute on special teams. At this point you have to go with the one who played better, and that is clearly Hilton. So if I have to pick only five cornerbacks, it’s Burns, Haden, Gay, Sensabaugh, and Hilton.