2017 Offseason Positional Review – Cornerback

The season might not quite be over for another couple of days, but 30 teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, have already hit offseason mode following their elimination, either prior to or during the playoffs. Pittsburgh got quite far this year, reaching the AFC Championship game for the first time since 2010

But before we get too deep into the offseason, it’s time to take a look at the Steelers’ roster as it appears to be shaping up as we look ahead to 2017.

As with almost every other team, the Steelers have already made some roster tweaks, signing several players to Reserve/Futures contracts, tenders, and other sorts of contract, , so here is a position-by-position look at how the team looks heading into the offseason.

Position: Cornerback

Total Positional Figure: 8

Additions: 1

Deletions: 1

Players Retained:

Ross Cockrell: It’s only been about a year and a half since the Steelers brought Ross Cockrell into the organization, but he has made major strides since then and has ascended to the top of the cornerback depth chart. He was the closest thing to a shutdown corner they had last year and he got his hands on a number of balls, though no interceptions. He’s still young and has important areas to target for improvement. Hopefully he’s not at his ceiling.

Artie Burns: Artie Burns is certainly not at his ceiling yet after his rookie season. At least he has better not be. He did come up with three interceptions and over a dozen passes defensed as a rookie. Further growth and knowledge of the defense on his part should allow the defense more flexibility in playing man coverage next year.

William Gay: He has been nothing but a trooper for the Steelers, but it’s unclear how much longer they can depend upon William Gay. They are probably hoping for Senquez Golson to step into the slot in 2017, but Gay would still have tremendous value off the bench. Otherwise, he can still contribute in the nickel.

Al-Hajj Shabazz: It’s a bit striking to see Al-Hajj Shabazz fourth on the depth chart. That kind of says everything about their depth. Shabazz might be an interesting developmental project, but I don’t want to see him coming into a game as an injury replacement.

Senquez Golson: Two years and no production for the former second-rounder. Health has eluded him, so we know very little about Senquez Golson at this point. He can’t be counted upon until he proves he can be.

Brandon Dixon: A former sixth-round pick in 2014 of the Jets, Bradon Dixon has bounced around a number of teams, but last played as a rookie. He did intercept a pass. He spent time in December on the practice squad.

Mike Hilton: Another carryover from the practice squad, Mike Hilton was signed in December after going undrafted in 2016. Signed by the Jaguars and spending some time on the Patriots’ practice squad, Hilton is a short corner, but is a player who brings experience in playing all positions in the defensive backfield during his college career.

Players Added:

Greg Ducre: Greg Ducre is one of the few players the team has signed that spent no time with them in 2016. Undrafted in 2014, he also has one interception in his career and also played in the CFL.

Players Deleted:

Justin Gilbert: The Steelers traded a sixth-round pick for Justin Gilbert, a former top-10 draft pick, but he barely got on the field. They released him earlier this offseason to get out from under his contract, but it’s apparently not out of the cards that he’s re-signed.

Offseason Strategy: This might be the prime position to address in free agency with a mid-tier free agent, in my opinion. There is virtually nothing proven here, and the closest things to that are either still growing or getting too old. There could be a day-two pick here in the draft.

About the Author

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