2017 Camp Questions: Will Ross Cockrell Start The Season Opener?

The journey toward the 2017 season is now in full swing with the Pittsburgh Steelers having reported to Latrobe for their annual training camp at Saint Vincent College, where they have held their camps for over half a century now.

This is surely the time more than any other in which we find ourselves full of questions that we are looking to get answered, and this also tends to be the best time to get answers to those questions that have been building up over the course of time since the 2016 season ended.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the training camp and the preseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Will cornerback Ross Cockrell retain his starting job when the regular season begins?

Although it seemed to come somewhat out of nowhere in the past week or so, there was always the possibility that the Steelers would attempt to make a change in the starting lineup at cornerback, with Ross Cockrell essentially inheriting the role by default.

While he played fairly well last season (cue dissenters), certain struggles that he has had this preseason have really put the spotlight on him, and as a result we have found him being rotated with Coty Sensabaugh for a possible switch in the starting lineup.

During Saturday’s preseason game, the two cornerbacks rotated drives during the first half, although in truth neither of them looked particularly great during the game. If Sensabaugh is not going to actually do a better job that it wouldn’t make much sense to make the change simply for the purpose of changing something.

Then there is the potential looming threat of rookie Cameron Sutton. While he has likely missed far too much of training camp and the preseason to be in consideration of making a serious push for a starting job right off the bat, it’s not inconceivable that it could eventually happen at some point during the year if he plays well enough and those ahead of him do not.

No matter what happens in the secondary, there is no disputing that the pass rush also has to improve. Specifically the four-man rush. The coaching staff has been talking about this for years now. They tried to give it a go at the start of last season and ended up with among the lowest sack totals in the league in the first half of the season.

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Matthew Marczi

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

  • Jaybird

    Gay hasn’t exactly looked great either this preseason. I thought Sensabaugh was a better slot corner than he was on the outside. How come there is no talk of Gay being replaced by Sensabaugh? Then when Sutton gets up to speed , he could challenge Cockrell on the outside.

  • Lil Smitty

    I think Ross will start the season at starting corner. Sensabaugh at slot. I don’t know if they will finish the season that way. I think Sutton will take over one of their position about midseason.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Frustrating for fans to watch, to say the least. And the gaping hole where a second-round CB should be (Golson) has never been more obvious. There’s still time, of course, before the season begins. But I think we’re all crossing our fingers that the secondary will improve their play as the season continues.

  • francesco

    Cockrell will most likely start but will be on a very short leash. It was a mistake tendering him and a mistake thinking he was the answer as CB opposite Burns. I say play Allen as he can’t do no worse.

  • Seems like the same ol song & dance. From what I’ve seen so far, Cockrill is having a rough go in the preseason. Coty seems to be a legitimate temp replacement. I liked Sutton play against the colts. My concern is how these backup QB’s are shredding the defense for chunk plays. The front 4 needs to disrupt the backfield/pocket. That would help the db’s a lot. Cockrill is who he is, an average cb that would be a good backup. It would be great to see this defense figure it out during the 1st couple of games & roll from there. If not.. it’s gonna be a long year.

  • falconsaftey43

    I don’t get why everyone is panicking. They ranked middle of the pack last year. They return every starter in the secondary. Burns will be better. They added Sensabaugh, Sutton and Hilton it looks like to the roster. They’ll be deeper, and should be at least as good as last year, likely improved.

  • treeher

    If you can’t improve a middle-of-the-pack secondary, that is cause for panic unless your goal is not to advance to the SB.

  • SteelerSurfer

    If Cockrell isn’t the starter the Steeler D is in a lot of trouble.

  • falconsaftey43

    I’d have to disagree with you there. Is it reason for concern, sure. Panic like we’re seeing? No. This team did make it to the AFCCG last year believe it or not. They went 11-5 with this exact same secondary. You don’t have to be great in every level of your team to win it all. When the biggest concern on your team is that your secondary is only middle of the pack, you’re a very good team. The Falcons and Packers were both significantly worse on defense (including the secondary) than the Steelers last year.

  • RickM

    Yes. And if Mitchell is back he’ll look better.

  • Michael James

    If he is the starter, they will be in a lot of trouble, too. He’s simply completely unable to play in a more man-heavy scheme. He may be ok in a zone-heavy scheme, but he can’t play man for the life of him.

  • John Noh

    I think this is your classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario until Cam Sutton proves he’s worthy of taking the starter’s job. Now starting as CB No. 2 for your Pittsburgh Steelers, Hobson Choice.

  • Michael James

    In all honesty, look at the QBs they played against. Outside of Brady and Prescott there wasn’t a single good or even very good QB they played against. Against those teams the defense looked absolutely horrible. Even against some slightly above average QBs (Flacco etc.) they looked shaky. The improvement during the second half of the season has a lot to do with the fact that they only played against teams with backup QBs or generally bad QBs.

  • Michael Conrad


  • Michael Conrad

    I don’t see a choice right now . I’m thinking Sensabaugh is no better and until Sutton or Allen come along you start him. I’m looking at the first game against Cleveland and not sure the D will be tested. It will be four games in before the stuff hits the fan.

  • Doug

    Sutton is a slot corner

  • Doug

    I’d be surprised if Allen isn’t sent to the PS.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    Mitchell is the glue that holds this secondary together.

    Yup, said it.

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    I take solace in the fact that they did a good job against anyone.

  • Jaybird

    So was Gay , but we used him on the outside for years.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    If Cockrell is your starter, then don’t bother preaching about competition anymore. He’s been exposed in every game they’ve played this preseason. I agree that Sensabaugh did nothing to “win” the job, but he didn’t do anything to lose it either. I can’t say the same for Cockrell. Coty is the winner by default because he didn’t get torched for a handful of big plays.

  • Jaybird

    Doug , Sutton played both slot and outside corner against the Colts. I had to go back and check just to make sure. In the spring he took all his reps at outside corner. I’m with you , I think he’d be a better slot guy, but I also think Coty would be better in the slot also. We don’t have a lot of option on the outside right now. Cross your fingers that Allen can turn into something decent a year from now.

  • Ralph Wagner

    Tomlin will start the season with the same guys he ended last season with. Hoping for better results. That’s Tomlin.

    Go Steelers

  • stan

    The best option might be to keep rotating them series by series, game by game. While neither one is a cb that you’re proud to put out there, they’re both at least passable out there and you can always play some match-ups by running them both out there from time to time.

  • SteelerSurfer

    Exactly, calling for change with no replacement that would make Steelers better is nonsensical.

  • SteelerSurfer

    He is the Steelers best hope, at this point there is not a better option.

  • Conserv_58

    Uh, no. The again, the only two choices they have are Cockrell and Sensabaugh untill Sutton catches up.

  • Reggie Cunningham

    Nah. That rotation mess sucks. I think it’s hard for any player to get his groove like that. We just need a better corner

  • Anthony Barnes

    Forget Cockrell, let’s start Holba at CB

  • Matthew Marczi

    Only because they had to.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Did you watch the Giants game?

  • Matthew Marczi

    Making arbitrary changes doesn’t magically improve your results either.

  • Carl Mendelius

    Sorry folks, a team cannot beat NE or GB with this secondary. The Steelers needed another 1st round CB but Colbert thought Cockrell is ok and he is not. Burns is not great is just ok. Gay is mediocre. Mitchell injures his own teammates. Davis is actually good. All in all the secondary is average at. best and cannot play man coverage.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    This is why teams paid for FA CBs. Because you need quality CBs and drafting them is both a crap shoot and a waiting game.

    Steelers needed to add a starting CB in the off-season. They did not. Only chance now is to hope one gets cut who can improve this secondary.

    Just…. man. This is exactly what looked like would happen SMH

  • treeher

    Maybe. The issue I’m stressing is that we should be improving and I haven’t seen it yet. Sure, we went 11-5 but we lost some games we should have won and ended up in a playoff game on the road. We want to play at home in the playoffs and to do that we need to improve from 11-5. Especially since I see even more competition this year within the conference.