Tomlin Says Sensabaugh Challenging Cockrell For Starting Spot

Two dogs. One bone. A phrase that usually has been reserved for wide receivers. Now, it can apply to the corners. At his Thursday afternoon press conference, Mike Tomlin said it’s fair to call Coty Sensabaugh and Ross Cockrell a two dog, one bone battle.

“It’s shaping up to be that,” Tomlin said when asked if this was a dogfight. “We’ll see. I know Coty has done enough to merit consideration. And that’s what this process is about.”

This comes on the heels of a tough game against the Atlanta Falcons, spring boarded off an equally difficult camp for Cockrell. Sunday, he got burned for a big play down the right sideline and should’ve allowed a goal line touchdown on a slant, only bailed out by the receiver dropping the pass.

Sensabaugh has had an impressive camp as the second team corner, also getting in first team work several days when Artie Burns missed time. His tape in the preseason has been strong, though it’s come against backups. His ball skills are better than Cockrell and he’s probably on the same playing field as a tackler, too.

Clearly, the Steelers are looking to shake up their cornerback group. They traded for Dashaun Phillips last night and have seemed to experiment with moving guys around during this week’s practice.

While it sounds like Cockrell is still going to start against the Indianapolis Colts, his leash has gotten shorter. It may have even surprised the team Cockrell wound up as the starter. Originally taken off the scrap heap of the 75 man cutdowns, not even claimed by the Steelers but added a week later, he quickly ascended to the #2 spot in 2015 due to a complete lack of talent at corner. Now, his time there could be coming to an end. Or at least, be sincerely challenged.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Biggie

    I hope he is because Cockrell has looked poor at best in preseason games so far and from what I have read has been abused in camp by Brown and Bryant. Though you’d expect those two to do well he shouldn’t be getting abused. Brown and Burns from what I’ve read have had some great competition. Cockrell has now cause the secondary to be a question again along with Mitchell being out.


    may the best player win

  • Alex Kozora

    To be fair, Sensabaugh was no better vs AB.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Just spit-balling here, but I wonder if Cockrell would be better suited to cover tight ends? Maybe even Gronk? He’s probably a little less likely to get burned by a tight end than a wide receiver. Again, thinking out loud.

  • srdan

    First, I love competition in camp.

    Second, a player that was touted as one of the best corners in FA 2 years ago got signed by a bad team that played him out of position and he struggled; does not mean he got worse in one year. I liked the signing then, and like it better now.

  • srdan

    You think he is physical enough for that? I like the idea

  • Biggie

    Yeah hadn’t read as much on Sensabaugh in practice but just hoping someone is pushing Cockrell as he has looked bad so far. If he takes the challenge and steps up then great.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Interesting development. Burns is going to start on one side. Gay is going to be in the slot, unless he is less than secure than I think. If Sensabaugh takes the outside spot, he could go from starter to riding the pine. His special teams contributions are minimal. Sutton will get snaps on specials as will Phillips and Hilton. He could go quickly from starter….to not dressing.

  • ilamarca

    I still view the secondary as a house of cards. Sure we have a good set of players in Burns, Davis and Mitchell but behind them its weak. Even if those guys don’t go out the slot and opposite side of the field from Burns will continue to get eaten up until Sutton takes over and/or the rebuild can be finalized with 2 starting caliber CBs.

  • Mr. Goodkat

    I like his chances on Gronk better than on “Jules” (shifty) or Cooks (4.33 40)

  • Shannon Stephenson

    From what it sound like is that Cockrell is still ahead but that Sensabaugh has played well enough to be considered. Cockrell played well last year and Sensei will have to step up his game to take the spot IMO.

  • PaeperCup

    I hope it’s because Coty looks as good as Ross looks bad.

  • WreckIess

    I don’t know if it’ll be much of a competition. I fully expect Cockrell to win it, but I think Tomlin is just looking to push him. Hopefully the pressure ends up making him better, but I’ve said it before, I think this is just who Cockrell is for the most part. Solid No 2, but that’s it. Solid. You can live with him, but he’s a guy you can definitely upgrade from too. Good player, but with Burns progressing the way he has there are going to be more QBs avoiding him and going at the No 2. So the question is, is he good enough? Can he handle the targets he’s going to get?

  • StrengthOfVictory

    If he wins it, it will have to be blatantly obvious (even to us) that he’s won it. Because based on what I’ve seen in the preseason? If I’m an opposing QB, I’m targeting the receiver lined up on Cockrell again, and again, and again.

  • WreckIess

    Probably so, but I will say that as of last game(which is obviously a small sample size.) most of the completions in the first half were over the middle of the field with Golden, Matekevich, and VW being the usual culprits. These are issues that we’ve been seeing over the last few years. The middle of the field has been used and abused so no matter what happens on the outside, the MOF needs to be cleaned up. VW himself was at fault for 3 or 4 completions.

  • Flip Fisher

    They traded for Phillips because they waved Crawford. He is nothing more than a camp body.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Right, but I was referring specifically to the ones that went RC’s way. That “should have been a touchdown” incompletion was, frankly, embarrassing. Bad day at the office? Perhaps. But then getting burned deep didn’t do anything to inspire confidence either. I like Ross, but we can’t have that glaring of a weakness going into the season.

  • francesco

    Cockrell would not be regarded as a starter for most teams except in Pittsburgh.

  • Nathanael Dory

    Now thats what i like..competition

  • hdogg48

    I agree with you wreck.

    They could have had Zach Cunningham an ILB
    from Vanderbilt who can COVER…he went in the
    2nd round.

    Further the freakish Obi Mentafor (sp) could have been
    had in the 2nd round for our later 2nd and the extra 3.

    Until we can load up our D with the players
    who can guard the middle of the field on those
    short patterns our D will continue to be a s hit
    sandwich…good in the front …good in the back
    and stinky in the middle.

    The Brady’s, Ryan’s, and Roger’s of the league know
    this. And if they win the TD vs. FG battles in the Red Zone
    …then they win the game….EASILY.

  • SilverSteel

    Halle-freakin-luyah. I think I spelled that right.

  • SilverSteel may have something there. 🤔

  • SilverSteel

    Good level headed post, but it looks to me like Cockrell had all off season working with Burns and he looks like he is worse than last year. Doesn’t make sense.

  • SilverSteel


  • Robert E Lil

    “The problem is Sensabaugh isn’t challenging Gay for his spot; he is challenging Cockrell for a starting spot on the outside. And it feels more like he is getting this opportunity because Cockrell has been bad and not necessarily because Sensabaugh has done anything special”

  • FATCAT716

    Most of the league don’t fair well against AB

  • Jacob

    Too bad it’s not that Sensabaugh looked so amazingly awesome rather than poor performence by Cockrell.

    If Sensabaugh wins it, the question is whether this is an upgrade from last year?

  • Denny

    I think we have to hope that Sutton can get healthy and claim that spot.

  • Dennis Nevinsky

    The Eagles made a trade that would have been nice for the Steelers. They gave an average WR and a 3rd round draft pick to the Bills for a top notch CB, Ronald Darby. I would have loved the Steelers make this trade.

  • Michael Conrad

    Last time the Steelers traded a third round pick it was for Shamarko Thomas in the fourth round.

  • Darth Blount 47

    This is chum in the water around here.

    That said, the question must be begged…. Is this a shock to the coaching staff? I mean, most around here have seen something like this coming. However, was Coty Sensabaugh really signed to be the salve? I’m not denigrating Coty personally, I’m actually not. If he shows a real spark and aptitude, cool. Very cool! But if we needed to go “Starting CB hunting,” why in the world weren’t we more active in Free Agency and to a lesser extent, the draft?!

    I understand that financially, it was a hard sell to make. I’ve mentioned Logan Ryan before. So I won’t go there (Too late). But should we have been more willing to truly open up the possibilities and gotten a true known commodity who can be a beast/gem of a CB? I guess what I mean is… Can you imagine if Artie Burns were the 2ND BEST CB on this team?!

    Maybe Richard Sherman and Trumaine Johnson was outside of the realm for us. MAYBE. But was Ronald Darby? Prince Amukamara? Or maybe someone like the solidly consistent IronMan (144 straight games) Brandon Carr?

  • Robert E Lil

    100% right.
    And one of the reasons Burns stood out (in such a great way) last year is not because he played over his head but rather, he stood out because the secondary is so deplete in talent. Burns SHOULD be a #2 corner at this stage of his career on this team. Given the franchise qb’s narrowing window the Steelers missed the boat on a draft heavy with cb’s and a free agent market that featured proven cb commodities.

  • Matt

    As I recall lack of physical play (or at least not physical enough for the Stillers’ tastes) and less than stellar tackling have been problems for Cockrell in the past.

  • Beanz

    Not too thrilled by the talent level of this group. The whole secondary is suspect. The only two that stand out are Burns and Davis. We need a gotdham playmaker in the secondary. After you get past the front seven theres just no intensity. Meh tchells coverage skills are mediocre at best. I predict we will have moderate success against less advanced offenses. But against a top tier team, it will be quick passes, a handful of broken coverages for long yardage plays, neutralized pass rush, and 100 yard rushers with all of the yards coming in the second half because weve been chasing instead of defending. More of the same.

  • Beanz

    Isnt this article, while well written and enjoyable btw, indicative of a less than optimal situation regarding our secondary? Does it not speak to the talent level of a marginal group we call a secondary?

  • Big Joe

    Now let’s see how Cockrell responds to the very open pressure based on his recent performance. Hope he does better than last week but, if not, let’s see what Coty can do.

  • razaard2

    Competition is always good. If you can’t handle the pressure of some competition, you can’t handle the pressure of big games.
    So step up Cockrell, fight for your bone. You played much better on the winning stretch last season than you have done so far this offseason

  • Could the team be holding off cutting Golson because they’re sooo aware of how thin they are re NFL-recompetent CBs?

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    Will never understand why regime refuses to bring in a high priced FA. Not saying it should be done all the time… that’ll get us in real trouble. From time to time, however, filling in a missing piece with a quality and proven veteran might be just the ticket. Green Bay is an excellent example of this: no way do the Packers compete for a Superbowl without the acquisition of Charles Woodson. They don’t do it often, but they do dip their toe in the FA agent waters. I’d like to see more of that kind of approach in Pittsburgh.

  • SteelersGeek4Lyfe

    More like Cockrell has done little enough that Sensabaugh is now garnering consideration… lol

  • SteelersGeek4Lyfe

    Cockrell stands a 0% chance against Gronk. Absolutely none.

  • Brenton deed

    Yes and why? The injuries to Golson and Sutton have retarded their development so it’s not as though the FO didn’t plan for the secondary. It’s more that the plan was screwed by injuries.

  • Taylor Williams

    Burns is a #1 corner.

  • capehouse

    Average WR? Jordan Matthews has averaged 115 targets a year in his 3 years with a 65% catch percentage. He’s a quality possession receiver with 19 career TDs. The teams basically swapped former 2nd rd picks. Darby, after having a great rookie year, had a down year last year. The reason Philly needed the 3rd rd pick for the trade is because Matthews only has 1 year on his contract, while Darby has 2. Who were the Steelers going to trade? We’re not taking Sammie Coates here. You’d have to pony up Martavis Bryant quality.

  • Conserv_58

    Someone needs to challenge Cockrell because he’s a liability in man coverage. It is baffling to realize that this team is still searching for a CB that can play opposite Artie. Cockrell is obviously better suited to play in zone coverage. Hopefully the walking wounded of the secondary can get back on the field so that the coaching staff can get a proper understanding of where they are in their development.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Darth, you’re singing the same song I’ve been singing since free agency started!

    The window is closing soon and the team is close. Adding a FA starter (CB) was the correct action, IMO. Burns as the two feels MUUUCH better.

    People will say, that’s not the Steelers way. And that’s fine. But sometimes, it make sense to question any status quo – and this CB issue is going on too many years. Adding a Prince or whoever would have fit would have changed the dynamic.

    Without that happening, and without anyone drafted becoming an instant phenom, here we go again.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    But he’s correct that -at this stage of his career – it would be beneficial for Burns to be the 2.


    There is a reason the Steelers have been tap dancing around a long term commitment to Cockrell…they could based on his league status, and more so they’re just not convinced he’s the guy.

    He’s shown he can play but clearly needs to be pushed and Sensabaugh is doing the pushing.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    Good point…If Artie becomes the shut down that we all want him to be, teams will target the other side but you’ll also be able to give Ross help. Artie can go man on one side of the field, zone on the other…safety help, etc

  • Zarbor

    He did say he like to play the bigger receivers. None bigger than the TEs. I don’t like the idea if he has to tackle them. One of his several weaknesses.