Pittsburgh Steelers third-year cornerback Antwon Blake has only been here for less than a year. He was initially signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and didn’t survive the final roster cuts in 2013, when the Steelers picked him up just prior to the start of the regular season.
In other words, he had no experience in the Steelers’ system, and thus little trust from the coaching staff to put him out on defense. He only played a snap every now and then to spell an injured player.
It even took him a while before he was integrated into the special teams rotation, which is why the Steelers targeted him in the first place. But once he got on the field, he quickly became one of Pittsburgh’s most valuable assets on special teams.
He has loftier goals for his second season in the black and gold, one that involves an active role on the defense, where he’s striving to prove he belongs in his first training camp at Latrobe.
Blake has been working with the second-team defense as an outside corner for the majority of the offseason, with the occasional first-team rep here and there. Yesterday, with Ike Taylor given a maintenance day, however, he got plenty of looks with the starting defense and wide receiver Antonio Brown.
He knows he has to show the coaches what he can do against another team, however, and he’s been tossing and turning at night waiting for that first opportunity this Saturday.
“If I can get into a game, the trust will come. I know as a second-teamer, I’ll be in there rather quickly in that first preseason game. I just want to be ready to make a play. I keep telling myself to put something on tape that I’ll be proud of”.
It seems clear that the Steelers are anticipating Blake making for some quality tape on both defense and special teams. As long as he keeps doing what he’s been doing, he should find himself getting on the field on defense this year.
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writer Mark Kaboly sees the potential for even more than just a contributor on defense, maybe not this season, but perhaps next year.
“Antwon Blake is a star in the making in my eyes”, he said yesterday when asked if the Steelers should cut or keep him on the roster this year. “He’s having a hell of a camp. He’s knocking balls down left and right. He’s a special teams wizard. I’m offended that you put Antwon Blake on the Cut ‘em or Keep ‘em List!”
“This guy might be their starting corner next year, that’s how much potential he has”, he said, noting that perhaps only Dri Archer could beat him in a foot race. “This is a guy that could be being primed to take over Ike Taylor’s job next year if they don’t sign him to another deal, that’s how much talent he has”.
There’s still plenty of time to figure that out later on down the road, but for the time being, the third-year former undrafted free agent is just ready to start being a contributor on defense, a right he appears to be earning with his training camp performances.