Doran Grant Spent Practice Time Learning About ‘Top Dogs’ Covering Antonio Brown

Second-year Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Doran Grant surely did not have the rookie season that he was hoping for, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t continually try to better himself over the course of the 2015 season through his ups and downs.

Drafted by the Steelers in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft as one of two cornerback selected in the top four rounds, Grant made the initial 53-man roster only to be released a day later in order to make room for additional signings and waiver claims. He was added to the practice squad, where he spent about half the season.

Even though he surely must have been disappointed to have been bumped off the 53-man roster so quickly after believing that he had made it, he did not sulk, but rather, when given the opportunity, simply went back to what he had been doing during training camp: covering All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown.

As Mike Prisuta recapped for the team’s website back in August, it was a routine sight during the Steelers’ training camp to see the mid-round rookie cornerback being paired against the elite wide receiver. Grant simply chalked it up to quality experience, saying of the experience, “you learn what the top dogs look like”.

Though he wasn’t on the 53-man roster for a good portion of the regular season, he was still on the practice squad, and that means he was still a part of the team’s practice sessions. Of course, practice squad players are every bit a part of the team outside of the ability to participate in games, and perhaps are not as detailed in the game-planning.

Yesterday, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN talked about Grant as a ‘surprise player to watch’ as the team begins its offseason work, relaying that he found himself “often asking to cover Antonio Brown in practices”. After all, if you’re a guy low on the ladder, looking to climb your way up, you might as well grab hold of the highest rung you can and start pulling.

While he did get called up to the 53-man roster later in the year, he only ended up dressing for three games, logging one snap on defense and a handful of snaps on special teams. He briefly battled a groin injury at the end of the regular season, and did not dress for the playoff game against the Bengals.

Grant was passed over in favor of Ross Cockrell, whose same-day signing as the final roster cuts ultimately prompted his release the next day, and eventually Brandon Boykin as well. Both players were only acquired in August, while he has obviously been with the team learning the defense since May.

With two cornerback losses in free agency, and a year under his belt, Grant figures to stand a better chance at making the 53-man roster this year, and possibly even contributing if necessary, along with Senquez Golson, who is returning from a stint on injured reserve that wiped out his rookie season. at the very least, he has already learned what it’s like to cover a top dog. What bigger challenge can he face than covering Antonio Brown?

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Kyle Chrise

    time for Grant to step up! I’m predicting he’s up for the challenge!

  • NCSteel

    Love the determination.
    Hope it translate to field success.

  • Tom Jackson

    Not that I put too much hope into it but Grant was a quality 4th RND selection last year. Other then the stiffness a total freak athlete and very intelligent from everything you heard about him. Would be great if he turns out into something.

    And it’s certainly a slight indicator that he’ll stay at CB considering the fact that he seems to get practice reps as a corner. If he should transition to safety it should start right now if you ask me.

  • DB84

    Well they don’t seem to be good at evaluating CB talent so maybe the fact that they cut him after camp last year is a sign that he may have some upside. Either way I am hoping he can really take a big step into year 2.

  • Frank Cordaro

    Grant has a chance to step up, hope he does with the rest of the young guys and forges a identity.

  • Ray3

    Not only are they not good at evaluating CB talent, they clearly are worse at developing the CBs they do get. Carnell Lake has to go.

  • Just guessing, but the team could reveal what they think of Grant’s progress and upside in whether they double dip at CB. If they really think Grant can start eventually or contribute significantly, they may may a second CB very late in the draft or sign an UDFA [for depth and competition]. If they draft two before the 7th round, Grant might be feeling the heat.

  • falconsaftey43

    I’ve heard this a lot over the offseason. What specifically makes you think Lake is a big part of the problem apposed to just the talent level of the DBs being brought in?

  • Me too! I remember that Dave Te Thomas claimed that Grant was one of his top picks for CBs in the 2015 draft–he raved about him in his interview with Dave. I hope he’s proved right eventually–and while Grant is a Steeler–that perhaps he just had some problems with the scheme or a technical transition.

  • Zarbor

    Lake is a big part of the problem if he isn’t demanding more talent to work with. He’s been there long enough at the DB coach to know who good and who is up to the line. Either his line is real low or he just settling with the scraps.

  • falconsaftey43

    But that’s just speculation that he is either content with the talent given or not asking for better. And just because he ask for better players, doesn’t mean Tomlin/Colbert will give them, there are a lot of positions to add to.

  • Kevin artis

    If Lake goes, then the entire scouting department that evaluates CBs need to go with him. I’m not defending Lake, but this has been a problem after we drafted Rod Woodson. We haven’t had a pro bowler at the position since. The closest we gotten to all-star status is Ike Taylor.
    I know you can’t draft studs at every position and you do make a few mistakes but this area has been awful for years now.
    Only reason we have been getting away with it is because of our edge rushers over the last 10 years or so.
    Now, since we don’t have that productivity, our corners need to be more talented.

  • Orlysteel

    He saw Brown turn those ” top dogs ” into puppies, there’s no bigger challenge than to try to cover Brown.

  • Big Joe

    Here’s hoping he has learned some good things and can contribute more.

  • Rotten Sircus

    Look for Grant to surprise some people ..& it never mattered where a player gets drafted !

  • falconsaftey43

    Posted this in another article:
    I wanted to take an objective look at Lake the coach as it relates to
    his ability to develop talent. I went in with 2 rules, had to be on the
    53 for at least 2 years under Lake, had to have an average age under 27
    during that time. There are 8 players.

    C. Allen – 4th round
    C. Brown – 3rd round
    Cromartie-Smith – UDFA
    K. Lewis – 3rd round
    R. Mundy – 6th round
    R. Golden – UDFA
    A. Blake – UDFA
    S. Thomas – 4th

    These are my grades on Lake’s coaching job:
    Allen – Neutral, showed promise, got long term deal, hindered by injury to unknown extent.
    Brown – Failure, high pick never more than ST
    Cromartie-Smith – no grade, UDFA with no impact
    Lewis – Success, high pick, left on long term deal, solid player
    Mundy – Success, low pick, solid ST and backup, has started some
    Golden – Success, UDFA ST stud and now starter
    Blake – Success, UDFA cut after 1 year, developed into ST and started (not ideal, but passable) left for more money
    Thomas – Neutral, mid round pick, good ST, no defensive value.

    1 failure, 4 success, 2 neutral

  • Tim Goetz

    No player on that list was taken before the third round. I don’t think it’s fair to judge him without giving him some talent. Probably the only position coach that has never been given a first or second round talent. I guess our receivers are not top round picks but that is the exception not the rule.

  • Hypo Cycloid

    I like Grant. I think he has potential to be a very solid DB for us. Confident he will develop.

  • Zarbor

    You stated exactly what I’ve said. If he has asked for better players and Tomlin/Colbert did not give it to him, that = he is settling for scraps.

    Give me a break. Lake has been there long enough and they have filled many positions on both sides of the ball since he’s been there. If he knows what real talent looks like a CB, then he should know that he’s been given scraps. That should bother him.

    As a manager, if my staff isn’t good enough to get the job done, I have to make sure that I find a way to get better talent or I’m leaving from frustration working with inadequate staff. If I’m going to be responsible, then give me the tools to get the job done well. Duct tape is not a winning strategy even if you are getting by.

  • Zarbor

    I’m not going to defend any of the staff in that area. Lake takes the brunt of the blame because he’s the one working day in, day out, year in and year out with the so called ‘talent.’

    He should know this first hand and for him to continue with the same nonsense of not getting more talent and productivity from these positions as a CB that played for this team in this league is unacceptable.

    Tomlin, a CB coach at MN would be my number two to blame.

  • Michael Pennant

    then you can leave. A true Steeler sticks it out and makes the best out of a bad situation not running off because he didn’t get his way.

  • Thomas

    I hope Grant will be able to step it up. Maybe a switch to safety would be wise?

  • Zarbor

    Stop the nonsense. You obviously have no idea what is a true Steeler. Is James Harrison not a true Steeler because he did not stick around to make the best out of a bad situation? What foolishness.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Every position coach states their case during draft time for the players they want. Doesn’t mean they get them. Simple as that. You don’t think every position coach wants a new 1st-rounder?

  • NinjaMountie

    At least the team has something to go on with Grant. They’ve seen him on the practice field and in the film room. Golson is going to be the total unknown….here is to hoping for a pleasant surprise.

  • Bob Loblaw

    And if I’m recalling correctly, a few of the camp reports said that stiffness had improved.

  • Tom Jackson

    Really? I can’t even remember hearing that but I believe you.

    Would be important as well because IIRC his stiff hips really hindered him in college to stay close to some guys in coverage. That was the biggest knock on his projection to CB in the NFL and why people thought he might be better at safety. I mean the safety thing came also because of his run stopping ability and supposed high football IQ but thats a whole nother story…

  • I think James just wanted more money.

  • Ryan

    Agree with this list. When your only given mid to low level picks to work with your success rate isn’t gonna be that high. Especially considering CB is one of the bigger crap shoot positions. A lot of teams need CB’s.

  • Zuami Montanez

    He did and he went to Cincinnati that year and got less money lol

  • Steve Johnson

    If they flop once again, if it appears to be confusion and a lack if communication like last year, you could be right. The Rooney’s have forced their Coaches to make changes in the past.

  • Riverstko

    Disagree! All these guys were below average. Even played worst on new teams.But Golden is average and has played well. Lake has to go. I remember when he played he use to give a 10 yard cushion! He’s teaching them well

  • falconsaftey43

    So if they are low pedigree players (which these are) who do well enough to earn a contract elsewhere and then according to you perform worse, how can that been seen as anything but evidence of Lake being a good coach that made the players he was given perform better than they were?

  • Steel PAul

    The coaches didn’t seem remotely interested in him last year compared to Cockrell who seemed to walk on to a starting position. We’ll see..

  • Zarbor

    Every position coach states their case but one doesn’t seem to be getting first or second round talent while the rest are. That’s not strange? Really? He finally gets a second round pick and chose a guy who everyone state should have gone 3rd or 4th round because he is small.

    I’m done buying that he is unlucky not getting the talent he needs.

  • Matthew Marczi

    So you just think he’s not a good enough debater?

    Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert are the ones going to all the Pro Days and talking to the players. They are the ones that make the decision, and they ultimately make the decision they want, like the president with his chiefs of staff. They advise the president, but he’s free to make any decision he wants.

    It has nothing to do with luck. It’s about what Tomlin and Colbert think are the best players at each pick for the team. And it’s really that simple.

  • Zarbor

    Did you not say that each position coach state their case for the players they want? Well, it is real simple. Either he’s being completely ignored by Tomlin and Colbert when he makes his case year after year or he is okay with the substandard talent at his position.

    Either which way it’s a problem with him. The other positional coaches don’t seem to have that issue with Tomlin and Colbert. Just him. My guess is that he really believe we don’t need top talent at that position and he can coach anyone up. That has failed.

  • Matthew Marczi

    No. That’s not how it works. You can be the greatest attorney of all time and still not convince Mike Tomlin to draft Darqueze Dennard. The Steelers as a foundational belief value the front 7 much more highly than the secondary, or have you missed the constant articles about how pressure is more important than coverage on the team’s website? He and everyone else there believes they don’t *need* top talent at cornerback to run their defense, and they don’t. That’s why they don’t reach for them. But Lake’s persuasiveness has nothing to do with it. He gets his input like every other position coach, but that’s it. He has nothing to do with the decision beyond that, nor control over it.

  • Bob Loblaw

    Training camp report #4 mentions it, but it was on special teams that it was noticed. Want to say I saw it mentioned a couple times after he was waived, as well.