Terry Hawthorne Looking To Make Cornerback Competition Interesting

By Matthew Marczi

While I wait for the blackout rules for prime time games to subside before I can review last night’s game with Preseason Live, I might as well address some other things. There were plenty of positives and negatives to take away from the preseason loss to the Washington Redskins, but one of the more noteworthy developments, I think, is the fact that rookie cornerback Terry Hawthorne was able to make the field for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Prior to the game, it was not clear that Hawthorne, who missed most of the spring practices and nearly all of training camp with a balky knee, was able to see his first action of his career.

This is great news for him, because it puts him in strong position to make a run at securing the fifth cornerback spot on the roster—or possibly a sixth, should the team elect to carry 10 defensive backs. They do traditionally carry 10; however, with quality depth and injury needs at other positions, the secondary may be one of the areas targeted at the final cut downs from which to pilfer a roster spot to use elsewhere.

A few years ago, rookie fourth-round pick Cortez Allen was injured throughout training camp. He was already considered a project coming in, having not played football long, and in college playing for The Citadel, which is a military, rather than football factory. However, he was finally able to suit up for the final preseason game and did well enough to earn his place on the roster, rather than apprenticing on the practice squad.

It seemed that Hawthorne, a rookie fifth-round pick who is also regarded—though less so—as somewhat of a project with respect to technique, could be on that path himself. The Steelers had DeMarcus Van Dyke, Josh Victorian, and Isaiah Green all ready to compete, and with Allen, Curtis Brown, and William Gay eating up all of the reps in front of him, he was likely to not even see the field much.

Of course, Van Dyke and Allen remain out with injuries and Brown also saw significant time on the sidelines. Victorian and Green, two height-challenged yet scrappy young cornerbacks, are not exactly lighting up the preseason. As long as Van Dyke stays sidelined, one would think that Hawthorne has an excellent opportunity to leapfrog his former undrafted free agent competition on the depth chart.

Of course, he left the game last night with some cramping, but fortunately cramping is easily overcome. As long as he has no setbacks with his knee, he should be able to stay healthy and compete from here on out.

As previously mentioned, I do not yet have access to review the game. However, according to Pro Football Focus, Hawthorne saw 10 snaps on defense before exiting the game, and they gave him a 0.6 overall grade, which is certainly not bad at all given the number of snaps.

Recovering a fumble certainly helped his cause, of course. However, he was not targeted in the passing game and made no tackles otherwise. He did play on special teams, and he did show the ability to get down the field in a hurry. On his one opportunity to make the tackle, however, he missed it. Hawthorne will have to show better than that in the last two preseason games, because a ninth or 10th defensive back is primarily a special teams player, if he dresses at all.

I expect to see Hawthorne get a lot of playing time in the preseason finale, as Cortez Allen did a few years back, when the starters hardly play at all and players who will be moving on to their life’s work in a matter of days see a good chunk of the action.

The third preseason game is the tune-up for the regular season, so I don’t expect to see much of him then, but he can certainly make his presence felt on special teams, and you have to think that the team would like to give him every opportunity to earn his spot.

  • steeltown

    I hope he secures a roster spot, I’ve always been a supporter of C.Brown and Van Dyke but my patience is slowly running out, I wouldn’t want to lose the potential of Hawthorne.

    I like Victorian and Isaiah Green but I’d rather stash one of them on the PS instead of trying to hide Hawthorne there

  • Milliken Steeler

    I agree. Terry’s upside is huge and I think someone would pluck him off our PS.

  • Shea Fahr

    I agree with you. I thought Van Dyke was a 3rd round pick and not an UDFA but something tells me if they were going to release him, they would have already. Maybe they put him on IR if he ripped his hammy. I think Hawthorne can be something special but he obviously needs time.

  • paltel

    Im still pulling for Van Dyke because of the elite speed he’d bring to specialty teams and the defense. I have no particular knocks on Victorian, Green or Hawthrone. All three are PS eligible and imho none of the three have shown enough for another team to snatch.

  • Superdriller316

    DVD was a 3rd round pick. They might be talking about Victorian.

  • steeltown

    Yea he was a 3rd Rd pick

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I did a projected roster which I put Hawthorne on the PS because he just doesn’t have enough tape on him but that could change in the next few weeks depending on what happens.

  • GoSteelerz

    For those who read my comments… You’re probably tired of reading this, but Ryan Steed is getting ignored whereas I think he has played very well. He had one bad play in the Redskins game, taking a bad angle on the edge which lead to him getting blocked on a running play, but on subsequent runs he did not repeat that mistake and was in good position to prevent cutback runs. Furthermore, his guy never seems to be open. In both games the QB has looked his way, only to throw it away or throw it to someone else. I really hope the coaches are watching, because it seems like nobody is talking about him. Overall to me, he has performed better than all the other non-starting CB’s, at least on defense. I have not seen whether or not he’s been in on special teams. Having said all that, I hope Hawthorne gets a few more opportunities and I hope DVD can get on the field to finally see what he can do. It’s hard to evaluate guys that aren’t on the field, so I have a bit more patience in regard to those guys. I just don’t get it with Curtis Brown though. Once again he looked mediocre at best on defense. Yes, he’s a good special teamer, but if you’re a CB, then you need to be able to play solid ball if/when the starter is out or the formation demands extra DB’s. He consistently does not do this and I just don’t get how he is considered a lock to make the team. Unless he proves otherwise in the remainder of the preseason (you never know when the “light” will come on), I hope the coaches are ready to move on with other players.

  • Brendon Glad

    The 3rd preseason game is always my least-favorite PS game to watch…and the 4th is my favorite…for the very reasons you described above.
    I put very little stock into the preseason results as a whole…but I DO watch individual players and position groups with a more critical eye. (So yes, I’m STILL worried, as always, about the OL and Special-teams)
    Cortez showed up in game 4. Same as Leslie Shepard, Willie Parker, Stephan Logan, Nate Washington, James Harrison, William Gay and many others. All of the above secured excellent livings for themselves by showing up big-enough in various PS game #4’s. And several even helped the Steelers in huge ways toward team success.
    I honestly don’t enough about Hawthorne to even hope he flashes something. Because I don’t even know if he’s good. Crezdon Butler “flashed” a couple of times and tricked me. So I don’t even know what I want, for sure. But I WILL be very interested in watching him.

  • Brendon Glad

    I admit, I’m gonna have to take your word for it on Steed. My schedule just has caused a fluke where I’ve only really been able to see the games one time.
    But I’m with you 95% on the Curtis Brown thing. He’s going to make the team, by default, unfortunately to us.
    The only 5% I disagree with you on is whether Curtis Brown is a “good” special-teamer. It depends on what you are calling “good”. His statistics qualify him as “good”…by Steelers standards. The eyeball test of CBrown as a special-teamer just doesn’t do it for me. He’s not terrible…he’s “ok”.
    Yeah, he led the special-teams in tackles…(he’s a gunner, so I’d hope one of the 2 of them would do that)…he’s just a “blah” guy for me. He’s very “Ricardo Colkleigh” to me. Hard guy to get excited about.
    With he and Allen being drafted so closely together in the same draft, it’s pretty easy for (I’ll speak for you) both of us to fully “soak-in” the both of them in the same way. And Allen “feels” like a player to have decent excitement about. Brown does not.
    But hey, Keenan Lewis did nothing for me either for 3 years. And by year 4 I was fairly stunned when he became an above-average #2 corner on a good defense. So here’s to that, if he makes it. I love being proven wrong, as long as it works out in the Steelers favor.

  • GoSteelerz

    Look for him in the next game, and hopefully the 4th preseason game (if he makes it). He is number 38. Hopefully he will continue his good play and doesn’t make me a liar!!!! lol 😀

  • Brendon Glad

    I hope so too. The #2-3-4-5 CB spots are areas of big question marks. And based on camp, also spots with beautiful opportunities for young hungry dudes to fulfill their dreams. (And help US in Steelers Nation, as they do so.) So I’ll be watching for him. 🙂

  • Brendon Glad

    I agree. I’m not worried about any of them, too much (as good players who get cut and snatched, only to kill us later)…however, I am still worried a little about the situation as a whole.
    I just hope “If you are GOOD…Flash BIG-TIME…and if you are not…then don’t flash” Basically I hope I come away from these next 2 games feeling like some noticeable separation has been created…and in GOOD ways…not bad ways.

  • gdeuce

    Leslie Shepard?