An Ode To Ross Cockrell

Turn out the lights, the party’s over. Ross Cockrell is no longer a Pittsburgh Steeler. And since I’m admittedly the biggest Cockrell apologist on this site, heck, in the world, it’s my duty to say a proper goodbye. In his honor, I’m growing my hair like his and buying every Bob Ross painting I can find.

For real though. Cockrell became the whipping boy for every corner of Facebook during training camp after yes, a poor preseason. And the writing was on the wall, even for someone like me, proud owner of a Ross Cockrell fathead, was clear following the Joe Haden pickup. Cockrell was a starter or bust. No versatility, not enough physicality to be a dependable special teamer. His hair wasn’t on fire. It was lukewarm. At best.

And so the Steelers whisked him away for whatever they could get, shipping him to the New York Giants. Despite how south things went at the end, signing Cockrell was unquestionably a good decision. From the standpoint of there was nothing invested in him, inking him at the end of camp in 2015. So I mean, duh, it’s hard to get upset at moves like that.

Even beyond that, strictly the on-field product, it was still a good move. Cockrell provided a use, served his purpose. He entered a Steelers’ cornerback room in shambles. These were the corners on the roster to start that year.

Ross Cockrell
William Gay
Cortez Allen
Brandon Boykin
Antwon Blake
Doran Grant

Fear Factor challenges are less nauseating than that dumpster fire. Four of those six are essentially out of the league. Boykin has yet to meet an injured reserve spot he doesn’t like, Blake changed names, teams, and then bolted on New York, Grant’s been cut (again), and there are Kmart investors who have witnessed better returns than the Steelers got with Allen.

Only two rose from the ashes – Gay and Cockrell. It’s no surprise Cockrell cracked the starting lineup almost immediately despite being signed so late. By Week 2, he saw serious playtime and soon after became a starter. It was a successful season, picking off two passes, including a crucial INT against the Baltimore Ravens. In the Wild Card game versus Cincinnati, it was Cockrell who recovered Ryan Shazier’s forced fumble, bringing the Steelers from the depths of despair to go on and win the game.

All things considered, a successful season, earning praise from Mike Tomlin.

“Since last season, he’s done nothing but continue to move upward and onward from that,” Tomlin said in August of last year, reflecting on Cockrell’s 2015 performance. “He’s good above the neck, he’s worked hard in terms of conditioning his body, improving his body, getting ready to absorb the number of snaps he potentially could absorb.”

It was clear he was never going to be a shutdown corner or long-term answer. But his game improved, taking a jump in his physicality and tackling ability/run support from his first year to 2016. He showed toughness and work ethic when most didn’t notice.

I always point to this open field tackle in the second quarter against the Ravens last year. One that may have saved a touchdown, definitely saved a long gain. Cockrell was hurt pretty bad the play prior but gutted it out, not making a pretty tackle but a tackle all the same.

Or in camp, always putting in some extra agility work before practice began.

Cockrell was dependable last year, not missing time, and helped shut down A.J. Green in Week Two. Two catches, 38 yards. That was it and a critical reason why the Steelers walked away with the victory. Games that are easy to forget now but in the moment, were under the microscope.

His role was never to be *the* answer. He was, appropriate for Pittsburgh given they’re known for them, the bridge between that 2015 ugliness to what the Steelers have now, a far more competent group. He let the Steelers’ defense stay competitive, even if he or the unit never flourished.

Good luck in the Big Apple. I’ll pour out my paint can for ya.

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.
  • Rob H

    I just don’t understand how the Steelers could part with someone that PFF says is super duper awesome??

    Just kidding (of course), he was the obvious choice to cut bait with, he could only play one position in the secondary, and wasn’t capable of playing that one position the way they want/need it to be played now.

  • LHW

    I loved the guy. Sure, he had his moments, but regardless I think he performed above expectations. My fondest memory of him was a video I watched during the Penguins Stanley Cup run 2 years back; he was rollerblading through the streets of Pittsburgh to music. FANTASTIC guy. I hope he prospers.

  • Grow your hair like his and buy those paintings? hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha LMAO! Seriously though, I never had many bad things to say about Cockrell. He was a decent player for us. He made some nice plays and he screwed-up at times as well. He was an average player. It was nice to have him for such a cheap price, but it’s time to move forward.

  • Jaybird

    Alex you always surprise me- I would have thought you were too young to know who Bob Ross is. “Titanium White” and “happy little brush strokes” . Lol
    Bob Ross was the living human equivalent to Ambien.

  • Jeff Papiernik

    This is the second time within the last year or so that an “ode to so and so” has been written. However, in both instances, no ode was written. I’m starting to believe that the writers at the Depot don’t actually know what an ode is.

  • Jacob

    I don’t understand how or why he regressed. Thanks for the memories anyway, Ross!

  • dany

    Funny how nfl rosters work. Sensabaugh, kind of a big free agent signing last year, was cut and ended up with the giants as their 4th corner, signs with the steelers, the steelers trade their starter in Cockrell to the giants aaand he’s basically where Sensabaugh was last year

  • RickM

    Nice tribute and well deserved. Hope all goes well for him and he can score a decent long-term contract somewhere down the road.

  • BRB4ever

    Four words… living equivalent to Ambien! Haha

  • Lambert58

    I’m with you, Alex. Good tribute to Mr. Ross Cockrell. He’s been unfairly tarred and feathered by Steeler Nation. While not a shutdown corner as you say, I thought he improved, especially in the area of physicality. Never a talent phenom, but had a good attitude, was a smart, hard working pro that deserves our respect and thanks. Let’s never forget, he was a starting CB on a team that won 9 straight games. No small feat.
    Godspeed, Ross.

  • Lambert58

    He regressed because they are shifting the defensive scheme and he doesn’t fit as well doing it.

  • Dave D

    “In his honor, I’m growing my hair like his and buying every Bob Ross painting I can find.”

    Classic Alex Kozora! I love it. I also have huge redirect for Ross. Best of luck to him!

  • J Alfonso Ortega

    God speed. And thanks for what he did to help The steelers to the championship game last year.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    LOL. PFF.

  • Alex Kozora

    If I ever write an actual poem, someone fire me to Mars.

  • Jeff Papiernik

    I can relate. However, the headline was misleading. Fake News! 😉

  • Rick McClelland

    Good luck Ross. Alex is going to need to paint a happy little tree.

  • Boots

    We were definitely very fortunate to have him when we did. He was the step in the right direction we needed and despite his short comings was a valuable piece in helpingbturn the defense from a weakness to respectable.

  • Steel Squirrel

    I believe that was Ross Ventrone. Special Teams ace, unlike this Ross.

  • melblount

    “These were the corners on the roster to start that year.

    Ross Cockrell
    William Gay
    Cortez Allen
    Brandon Boykin
    Antwon Blake
    Doran Grant”

    WOW! EVERYONE should spend a minute or two with that list and then stop for several minutes more to ENJOY where we’ve come from that dark age.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Imagine that list of CB’s on this years roster…yikes!

  • Xclewsive

    I’m still in Haden euphoria right now, but want to say good luck. The Giants are a good team and potential Super Bowl opponent

  • walter

    Yea you.might say they traded Sensabaugh for Cockrell.

  • walter

    Yea you might say they traded Sensabaugh for Cockrell.

  • hdogg48

    Like the Starkist Tuna commercials from the late 1960s early 1970s said:
    “We don’t want Tunas with good taste…we want Tunas that taste good.”

    Guess which one Cockrell was?
    Guess which one Haden is?

  • SfSteeler

    thanks, Ross,

    and to the revolving door that is a Steeler DB…original whipping boys Gay, Mitch, and Golden are the only holdovers from 15…

  • I don’t understand cutting him. You often have packages that use four corners at once. We kept five. Why not at least keep Cockrell for depth in case of the inevitable injuries?

  • Andrew

    He served his purpose, and we moved on. I hope he does well. We could have kept him as depth, but I would rather take a shot at Allen.

  • razaard2

    Hopefully haden stays healthy, otherwise we might miss Ross a lot. What happens if we lose haden/burns? Gay outside? Argh. Sutton is also hurt…

  • Matt Manzo

    Good point! Sensi will most likely be the top back up. Cockrell would be a great back up, but not playing Special Teams makes it hard.

  • Matt Manzo

    I’m grateful for him!

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Rosssssss PUSH IT TO THE LIMIT!!!
    Peace, dude! ✌️

  • NinjaMountie

    He’s on Netflix. I’ll bet that’s how.

  • Steeldog22

    Ross is smart. He understands coverage assignments and can be a good backup corner who can step in at a moment’s notice in this league for many years. Physically he’s not an NFL starting corner. That said, I think there are a lot of NFL teams that don’t have 2 “starting corners” that start. Hope he does well.

  • LHW

    Doh! I think you are right. Sorry for my confusion. Thank your for straightening me out.

  • Steel Squirrel

    No problem. That was a hilarious video, though. I wish both Ross’s all the luck (except against the Steelers, of course.)

  • Geoffrey Benedict

    Thank you Alex.

    Ross was a fantastic player for us, tiny investment, solid return. He has a lot of haters, I think mostly because the defense wasn’t good enough, even though he was solid. I mewn, who was good in that Pats loss?

    Sadly he isn’t a man corner, and for that we traded his contract for Haden’s. I hope the switch pays off, because we paid a lot and got significantly older to get better at man defense.

  • Riverstko

    I will miss you Ross Thanks and good luck

  • Kevin Schwartz

    Yup, I liked him. Not that much upside, but was solid and did his job. Can’t ask for more.

  • MC

    I was grateful for this guy. We know his ceiling and he was nowhere near the liability most thought he would be last season. All the best to him.

  • MintDragon

    you can say that again!


  • Zarbor

    Yeah, people forgot where he came from…Buffalo. He got a chance in the Burgh to be a starter. Something he probably never would have seen in Buffalo. Nevertheless, he was good for us and we were good for him. Seems like a good guy and was all in for the team…..unlike a certain RB we have.

    All the best to Cockrell…At least they didn’t send you to Cleveland.