2017 Steelers Pre-Training Camp Roster Review: Cornerback

The last time that we took a look back at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster in review, it was very shortly after the 2016 season ended. It would be safe to say that quite a bit has changed, and, in a rarity, this actually applies to literally every position on the roster, including the quarterbacks and specialists.

We are closing in on the opening of the Steelers’ several weeks of training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, however, so it would be a good time to pause and take stock of where the team stands at each position as we head into the most critical process of the offseason.

Position: Cornerback

Total Positional Figure: 10

Additions: 3

Deletions: 2

Players Retained:

Ross Cockrell: Still their top cornerback until proven otherwise, Cockrell is underrated by many Steelers fans who overlook the fact that their biggest issues in coverage were over the middle. I believe I read that the longest reception he gave up on the year was 37 yards. He’s imperfect, but he can play, and he will still get better.

Artie Burns: It is up to Burns to earn the right to be called the Steelers’ top cornerback. He showed that he has ball skills last year with 16 combined passes defensed and interceptions, which was the most on the team. But now he has to show that he knows the system and can play within it without being accommodated.

William Gay: The veteran is still kicking, and he played better last year than a lot of doubters seem to think. But anticipating a fall-off this season is not unreasonable. Especially if they try to play more man coverage.

Senquez Golson: It’s time for a healthy Golson to finally show the team why they drafted him. Quite simply. Otherwise he will not make the team.

Mike Hilton: Golson’s former college teammate, and somebody that I just wrote about earlier today. He is a darkhorse candidate here.

Greg Ducre: Entering his third season, Ducre has spent time on rosters but was on the Steelers’ practice squad last year.

Brandon Dixon: Dixon is another player with NFL experience but who was on the Steelers’ practice squad last year. Both have a steep hill to climb.

Players Added:

Coty Sensabaugh: Signed in free agency to add depth and competition, Sensabaugh’s best quality is his versatility to play inside and outside. Plus, the experience doesn’t hurt.

Cameron Sutton: Pittsburgh’s rookie third-round draft pick, Sutton is a very cerebral player and spring reports on him have been positive, suggesting he’s breaking up a lot of plays. He will push for playing time this year.

Brian Allen: The other rookie draft pick, Allen in the fifth round, he is a size prospect at 6’3” and 215 pounds. He has some skills to work with but he could still struggle to make the roster if he is simply too raw. Special teams will be his friend.

Players Lost:

Justin Gilbert: The Steelers will lose their 2018 sixth-round draft pick for this one. You’re welcome, Browns.

Al-Hajj Shabazz: Shabazz was a former undrafted free agent with size who had some potential, spending a lot of time on the 53-man roster last year and even getting some defensive playing time while being a special teams contributor, but they released him after drafting two cornerbacks. He is actually now with the Ravens…as is Brandon Boykin. Both were signed after Tavon Young tore his ACL.

Notes and Camp Outlook: 

While the two starting outside cornerbacks are probably set for the start of the season, the rest of this group is going to be highly competitive. Gay is still the favorite to open in the slot, but Golson, Sutton, and Sensabaugh—as well as Hilton—could all vie for the job.

This is the deepest the position has been in years, with players like Allen, Golson, Hilton, and Sensabaugh all fighting for potentially two roster spots, assuming Cockrell, Burns, Gay, and Sutton are taken as givens.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Michael Mosgrove

    burns, cockrell
    gay, sensabaugh, sutton

    rest are gone.
    allen in practice squad.

  • Robert E Lil

    God forbid there are any injuries at that position. It’s still a mess and the team would be wise to bring Revis in for a physical

  • Jake Shelton

    My conerback predictions:
    Cockrell, Burns, Sutton, Sensabaugh, and I think Mike Hilton will impressive and have a strong chance to make the active roster. Allen will start out on the Practice Squad, but an injury will occur and he will be promoted to the active roster by mid-season and carve out a niche on special teams. I think we should get rid of gay, however, he is a selfless, team leader and mentor to a lot of the younger guys..that might allow him to hang on for one more year. But if you ask me, I’d rather get rid of him a year early, then a year too late. Glad to finally have some competition in the cornerback room, cant wait for the preseason and to (hopefully) watch our defense transition to stronger man coverage team!

  • SilverSteel

    I know there is no room for Allen on the team but I hate for him to get cut. He could be something next year. Let’s hope he can play some ST. I like the sound of another big, fast corner.

  • LHW

    I am still wondering about this group. There seems to be an excess of confidence in the CB situation (admittedly by people with exponentially more football IQ than myself), but does an excess of competition equate to quality? I could have a garage full average cars to drive, drive the best of the lot, and the logic would still be I was driving the “best one”.

    In my mind Gay is a known quantity. Cockrell has much potential. Burns is still learning and struggles in single coverage. Everyone else? I am worried, the only proven player here is Gay, and he has already reached his potential which does not include Probowl accolades. He is still around because we have not really had any better options. I predict next year’s situation will be the same in the backfield. I feel like the Steelers are treading water this year at this position.

  • SteelersGeek4Lyfe

    Areas of concern are mlb2, mlb depth, slot cb1, cb depth, safety depth.

  • steelburg

    Burns, Cockrell, Gay, Golson, Sutton, Sensabaugh. Allen goes to the practice squad. If Golson gets hurt again he is gone .