The Pittsburgh Steelers allowed cornerback Keenan Lewis to run off to the New Orleans Saints uncontested via free agency this offseason as they were comfortable with Cortez Allen stepping into the starting spot opposite Ike Taylor moving forward. In addition to letting Lewis walk, they signed cornerback William Gay back following his one year away with the Arizona Cardinals to serve as the nickel cornerback in 2013. Behind Taylor, Allen and Gay, however, sits a large group of young cornerbacks that will be batting it out in training camp this year for roster spots and today we will focus in on one of those young players, Josh Victorian.
When the Steelers opened training camp last year, Victorian wasn\’t even on the 90 man roster. A hamstring injury to undrafted free agent cornerback Terry Carter, however, resulted in him being waived injured and Victorian being signed to the roster to take his place.
During training camp, there wasn\’t much reported in the way of news on Victorian, but when the preseason games finally got underway, the Louisiana Tech product was noticeable with his aggressive play late in the games. In the four preseason games played, Victorian totaled three passes defenses and nearly picked off two of those playing outside. In addition, he also registered six total tackles, one of which came on special teams.
Following the preseason, Victorian showed enough to warrant the Steelers signing him to their practice squad and he stayed there until late November when he was waived to make from for wide receiver Bert Reed. Victorian\’s time on the street did not last long, however, as the Steelers added him back to the practice squad on December 4th after Taylor went down with a fractured ankle against the Baltimore Ravens. Four days later Victorian was promoted to the Steelers 53 man roster for the game against the San Diego Chargers.
Victorian wasn\’t expected to see playing time on defense against the Chargers, but after Curtis Brown struggled mightily as the third corner in the game, he wound up playing five snaps in total. On one of those five snaps, the Chargers six foot, 5 inch wide receiver Danario Alexander took advantage of a poorly timed jump in the end zone by the five foot, ten inch Victorian for an easy touchdown reception.
The following week against the Dallas Cowboys, Victorian was thrust into the starting cornerback spot opposite Lewis due to an injury suffered by Allen against the Chargers. It was a rough first start for the young cornerback, however, as he allowed six catches for 73 yards on eight total targets in the game. While he did register five tackles in the game, he also missed on four other attempts.
The following week in the crucial game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Victorian saw 13 snaps worth of playing time and had a much better showing. He didn\’t allow a reception the two times that he was targeted in coverage and was officially credited with two passes defensed.
In the season finale against the Cleveland Browns, Victorian again saw considerable playing time, but this time he allowed four receptions for 43 yards on five targets. In addition, he was also flagged for defensive pass interference deep in the Steelers own end early in the second half and the Browns scored just two plays later as a result.
The Steelers addressed the cornerback position last month in the draft by selecting Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne in the fifth round. Following the selection of Hawthorne, who one would think has a better than average shot at making the 53 man roster this year, defensive backs coach Carnell Lake was asked to talk about Victorian during his press conference.
“Josh really was a surprise for us,” Lake said. “We needed some bodies really to work the look team for our offense and we brought Josh in specifically for that. He was on a developmental team and because of the amount of injuries we had, Josh was it. He was our starter by default.
“Like I said before, I had probably two weeks with him to get him ready and his first start was against Dallas in Dallas. I have to give my hat off to him for coming in and really concentrating and getting ready specifically because we didn’t have much time with him before that.”
Judging by the recent comments made by Lake, Victorian stands a pretty good shot at making the Steelers 53 man roster out of training camp this year should the team decide to keep six total cornerbacks. Should he fail to do so, he still has practice squad eligibility remaining and that would allow for some future development underneath Lake.