Film Room: Veterans Cockrell And Gay Make Their Play

If the early portions of the preseason are anything to go by, then the Pittsburgh Steelers are not particularly interested in the vocal section of the fan base that is prepared to send starting cornerback Ross Cockrell to the bench, and nickel cornerback William Gay to the unemployment line, as both appear set to resume their starting positions from last season.

It is true that the Steelers have had to deal with a number of injury issues at the cornerback position during training camp, most notably with Senquez Golson suffering an evidently serious hamstring injury, and rookie third-round pick Cameron Sutton still only just working his way back from injury.

The two veteran cornerbacks would be taking the starting snaps anyway, but they did nothing during their preseason debut to suggest that the coaches should be hoping for a darkhorse candidate to take their place by the time the regular season starts.

While the starters did not play too deep into the game, there were a few plays of note, and I will look at two from each of them. Gay made a veteran play inside the red zone on second and three out of the slot to sniff out an option route and get the receiver down after a two-yard reception on second and three.

With the Giants facing a third and one on the subsequent play, Cockrell came off the defensive left-side perimeter on the run blitz and successfully brought down the ball-carrier for no gain. The offense did manage to convert on fourth down, however, on a run up the middle.

Still on the same drive, only now further back following a sack, the Giants faced a third and goal from the nine when the quarterback threw short of the goal line. Gay, playing the goal line, one again quickly read the route and broke up the play, though even if he hadn’t it seemed doomed to come up short.

Finally, the Giants offense had a quick turnaround due to an offensive interception going the other way, giving them first and goal at the five. Cockrell had man coverage on the outside and did a good job of playing the receiver to get an indication for the throw. When the receiver reacted, the cornerback turned and batted the pass away in the end zone.

Though Cockrell is still fairly young, he is a veteran at this point, and should have the best season of his career. Gay continues to play well when lined up in the slot. This appears to be the course set for the 2017 season, and it is not a bad one, considering the alternatives.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Robert E Lil

    Uh oh.
    Someone is getting defensive about the ability of Cockerell and Gay.
    The former who will likely not even be on the team a year from now
    And the same goes for the latter.

    But it’s true, they are the starting cornerbacks for the Steelers

  • Michael Putman

    I think that Gay and Cockrell are both quality players and the Steelers are fortunate to have both of them. We will see how they are THIS year, but they were both good enough last year to bring back, in my mind.

  • NickSteelerFan

    I’m happy to see them still playing at a decently high level. If a young CB shows enough to replace one of them, then they turn into very quality, experienced depth and that’s a great thing!
    Also, if every cornerback and safety that got burned by Tom Brady got replaced we wouldn’t have anyone left in the league!

  • KiJana Haney

    How long until you think sutton can overtake gay at slot

  • P – squared

    I don’t think it’s this year…Sutton needs to get on the field first

  • KiJana Haney

    I just would be shocked that he doesn’t get on the field after the bye week.

  • Mark

    Ross isn’t physical enough at CB for me. Blount and Woodson would cringe watching him play corner. His speed is also less than desirable. I like Gay but father time is catching up to him. I think they are okay for 2017 but see them being replaced on the 2018 squad. I would prefer to see Hilton replacing Gay and Sutton replacing Ross.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    More important than this topic: Watch Gay arrive early on the 3rd and goal from the 9, hit the guy before the ball arrives, and there is no flag. That’s the most important thing! Playing more aggressive as was mentioned in the past 2 days.

    It’s about flippin’ time Tomlin allowed them to play this way. Every other team has been doing this to the Steelers WR’s and getting away with it for 2 years. Finally Tomlin woke and realized this. That’s what I was practically screaming about last year. You have to have a sense of what the refs are letting you get away with in any particular game and adjust to it on the fly. Now they can play some D and get some pressure also.

  • 6 ring circus

    That PI was pretty obvious. I guess it must be preseason for the refs, too.

  • Guillermo Garcia-Gomez

    I think it’s OK enough to win the division this year, but the corners could be exposed by good Qb’s in the playoffs if we don’t get great pressure. Hope I’m wrong.

  • Guillermo Garcia-Gomez


  • Matthew Marczi

    It amuses me that you think I’m getting defensive. I have no reason to be defensive. I don’t have a horse in the race. Just because I think you’re wrong doesn’t mean that I think your opinion is threatening. I would, on the other hand, be nice if you were able to realize that the Steelers’ biggest issues in coverage last season were over the middle of the field to backs and tight ends, not perimeter receivers.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Let’s see him on the field in pads first.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Cockrell is not a Pro Bowler, that’s for sure. If they can upgrade him, great. But I do think they can win with him.

  • KiJana Haney

    Very true. I just anticipate this to be similar to burns. Maybe post bye week he gets the opportunity.

  • Matthew Marczi

    It’s not impossible. The team pretty much told him in the offseason they would try to replace him. I could see them perhaps working on a bit of a rotation at first like they did with Davis and Golden midseason.

  • KiJana Haney

    I agree with you about the rotation. I have watched sutton since he was a freshman and I can only imagine his upside as a player will be.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I’m optimistic about his future. Just anxious to see him get back in pads. Hopefully he at least suits up for the last two preseason games.

  • KiJana Haney

    I think the beautiful thing about our secondary situation is that every player is improving. Mike mitchell in particular is just reliable and solid. It is a long season so I know that sutton will get some burn at some point. Worst comes to worst I think he will play in the fourth game and leave us to think about how good he can become.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    no need to think they can win with him. they do win with him.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    this dude does nothing but try to stir the pot.

  • Alan Tman

    The good news is teams are going to go at Cockrell this year, so I’m expecting above the line play. I’ll say 5 to 7 interceptions.

  • Alan Tman

    Thin frame 188 lbs concerns me.