Steelers CB DeMarcus Van Dyke Has Make-Or-Break Training Camp Ahead Of Him

On Monday, we took a look at cornerback Josh Victorian, who will be battling to make the Pittsburgh Steelers 53 man roster out of training camp this year and today we will look at cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke, who figures to be competing against Victorian for that same roster spot.

Van Dyke, who was drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft by the Oakland Raiders, did not arrive in Pittsburgh until right before the 2012 season started as he was waived by the team that drafted him during their final roster cut down. Right after the Steelers signed him, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about his newest player prior to the season opener against the Denver Broncos.

“We were interested in this young man when he came out in the draft in 2011,” said Tomlin about Van Dyke. “Obviously, we ended up with Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen, but he was within that group and in that range from a grading standpoint. I was at his pro day. He’s got big-time upside, he’s an extremely fast guy. It was an opportunity for us to put a young cornerback in the mix and continue to work with him and develop his skill and see if maybe he can help us at some point.”

Despite being new to the team, Van Dyke dressed for the Steelers season opener against the Broncos and played on special teams. He managed to get himself noticed on the Steelers second punt of that game, however, when he downed a Drew Butler punt at the Broncos one yard-line.

The following week against the New York Jets, Van Dyke again made his presence felt on special teams when he used his speed in the third quarter to race downfield on a punt that resulted in Jets return man Jeremy Kerley muffing the catch with him in his face and Steelers safety Ryan Mundy recovering the loose football. Little did we know it that time, that that would be pretty much it for Van Dyke\’s positive contributions for the remainder of the season.

Over the course of the next four games, Van Dyke became a liability on special teams as he racked up five penalties during that span. On four occasions he was flagged for holding and one other time he was flagged for running out of bounds while covering a punt. As a result of the penalties, Tomlin made an example out of Van Dyke as he chose to dress him only once over the course of the next six games.

If not for the late season injuries in the Steelers secondary, Van Dyke more than likely wouldn\’t have dressed for the remainder of the season. However, when starting cornerback Ike Taylor fractured his ankle in the Week 13 game against the Baltimore Ravens, Van Dyke found himself back in uniform playing on special teams the following week against the San Diego Chargers.

With both Taylor and Cortez Allen out injured the following week against the Dallas Cowboys, it looked as if Van Dyke might actually be in line for his first defensive snaps of the season, but a separated shoulder suffered covering the game\’s first punt resulted in him being out of the game and the remainder of the season as a result.

Van Dyke has long since had his injured shoulder surgically repaired and he will presumably will be ready for the upcoming OTA sessions. However, the incompetence that he showed last season on special teams combined with the Steelers bringing back William Gay during the offseason, and the drafting Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne just last month, will severely hamper his chances at making the 53 man roster this year out of training camp.

Should Van Dyke fail to make the final cut, his time in Pittsburgh will be up as he no longer has practice squad eligibly.

  • steeltown

    I think if Van Dyke shows some improvement and Coach Smith can correct his flaws on kick coverage then he can be a real weapon as a gunner.. he has better speed and more height than Victorian, though it seems like Victorian has better instincts

    If he shows some growth in preseason I think he’ll make the decision tough on the coaching staff come cut day.. the fact that Victorian is eligible for the PS and Van Dyke is not, might help him

  • David Edward

    When you look at it, 7 of the 9-10 DBs that will make the 53 man are already penciled in. Troy and Clark and their heirs Shamarko and Golden at S…Ike, Cortez, and Gay at CB. Then you have 6 CB batting for 2 spots…Van Dyke, Hawthorne, Brown, Victorian, King, and Green. If they go with 10 DBs, a fifth S (Cromartie or Ventrone) can factor in, or they can keep a sixth CB. Of course, there may be other DBs brought in at points along the way that could factor in (as we saw with Van Dyke and Victorian last year). If I had to make a guess right now, I’ll say King and Hawthorne make 53 man with Victorian on PS again and they go with 9. Maybe a 10th is kept if they sign a vet they like who gets cut in camp.

  • steeltown

    I’m thinking 6 CB’s and im going with C.Brown, Hawthorne and Van Dyke, with Victorian on the PS

    So, 6 CB’s and 4 Safeties… with one CB on the PS (Victorian) and one Safety on the PS (Cromartie-Smith)

  • hergieburbur

    He’s got speed and looks to be a decent special teamer, but I don’t see anything out of him at CB so far.

  • HarryBackside

    Is Gay a lock? If some of the younger, cheaper corners look as good as Gay in training camp, can’t they push Gay for a roster spot? His guaranteed money wasn’t much, so I don’t think we should just assume that Gay is safe.

  • Tom

    His blazing speed will get him a long look. The mental errors of last year….playing dumb…will also put him under close scrutiny.

  • SteelersDepot

    Gay is a lock in 2013

  • Van Dyke can do one thing; run fast. That helps on special teams, but he can’t tackle all that well, and he can’t cover receivers. We have 3 CBs capable of playing at the NFL level and 1 draft pick hopeful. How we get to 6 CBs on the 53-man roster is beyond me. It’s gonna suck when the cuts are in and we have to give a spot to a gunner instead of a football player; even more so when we dress players for game day.

  • steeltown

    No Team in the NFL has 6 star CB’s on roster.. most Teams have 3 maybe 4 starters and the rest of the depth chart is filled out with young rookies, special teams aces and future projects and hopefuls

  • Pete

    Van Dyke ran 4.28 40 at the combine. In fact his time was the fastest at the combine that year if I recall. So he has the speed to stick with virtually any receiver in the NFL (even Mike Wallace). He has good height and size. I guess the question is whether Lake can coach him into a corner valued by the Steelers and if Van Dyke has the attitude to improve his special teams play.

  • steeltown

    Exactly, his upside (size and speed) is great and Tomlin said they graded him as high as Cortez Allen and C.Brown in that draft… obviously some players never pan out, but if Lake can better his technique I think he’d be a good #4 or #5 and special teams gunner… time will tell, we’ll know by the time preseason is over

  • He had the Lockout to deal with when he was drafted in ’11 so no OTA’s and stuff to help him develop. Last year was his true rookie year as far as offseason workouts ect. go…So the Steelers sign him just prior to the opener in 2012. He is still so raw but that speed is hard to ignore if he can get his head on straight, learn this defense and not have the mistakes he had last year on STs..

  • Gay is probably the best FA signing we have had this year. Especially when you consider the money and what the Steelers expect from him.

  • steeltown

    Not mention, we still got the comp pick for him (Vince Williams)

  • Alan Felicia

    Van Dyke will step up this offseason and beat out both Gay and Victorian in preseason. Carnell Lake will continue what Rod Woodson started in 2011 and teach this kid proper techniques. His speed and frame perfectly fits Van Dyke as a slot corner.