Will Antwon Blake Start For The Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015?


In 2014, the Pittsburgh Steelers were constantly under scrutiny for their many problems at cornerback. The lack of true starting material at the position, the fact that the position wasn’t addressed until the sixth round of the draft last year,  Ike Taylor’s injury plagued season and Cortez Allen’s decline after signing a four-year contract extension worth $24.6 million were all factors in this.

In an effort to find an identity in their secondary, the team started using all options in order to find some kind of production.

William Gay and Brice McCain would step up in a big way on defense, leading the team in interceptions (three a piece) and returned four of their six interceptions for touchdowns.

While this duo certainly was the reason for much success at cornerback last season, another defensive back slowly started making a name for himself on the Steelers’ defense. A defender that started his way from the special teams squad and make his way into the starting lineup by the end of last year.

Antwon Blake appeared in all seventeen games the Steelers played in 2014, making the first start in his career start during that time. For a player claimed off waivers before the start of the 2013 season, he has progressed well in nearly two years.

He didn’t make much of an impact until week eight when he made his first career interception off a deep pass by Andrew Luck intended for T.Y. Hilton.

From then on out he was a vital member of the Steelers secondary, especially in weeks 16 and 17. He defended a pass against Kansas City Chief’s receiver Dwayne Bowe to keep them from being the first team to allow them to score a passing TD and, a week later, forced a fumble on A.J. Green while at the same time recovering it.

Blake’s performance at the end of the of the year preludes to him having a successful 2015 campaign.

With McCain heading to Miami on a multi-million dollar deal, this leaves Blake as the primary candidate to take over on the left side opposite of William Gay. The only other contracted corners on the roster are Cortez Allen and B.W. Webb.

Allen may not be trusted to handle a starting role so soon after a dismal season, and Webb has not seen much, if any, time on field.

Oct 12, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Antwon Blake (41) against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers’ Nation would have rather seen him make the news by signing his tendered offer first, but instead it was of him being arrested for public intoxication while in California. While no one was injured during the ordeal and he was released hours afterwards, it is still troubling to see the team’s stars in those situations.

Blake has not been disciplined by the organization nor league as of yet, but there is always a possibility.

He can prove that his offseason distractions are a thing of the past and nothing to worry about in the future by entering OTAs and training camp with the determination to be a starter on the Steelers’ defense.

A little under a month later, ESPN reported that Blake agreed to terms on his restricted free agent tender, which is a one year deal worth 1.5 million dollars. Fans of the franchise can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that Pittsburgh will not be losing two of their more productive defensive backs this season.

With Blake officially under contract, he can focus his attention to continuing to be the productive cornerback that he has developed into.

Can the Steelers be successful with Blake as a starter? There is no reason why they could not. If you can remember a certain former defensive back by the name of Deshea Townsend, you will recall that he rose from special teamer to starting cornerback in his twelve-year span in the Steel City where he recorded over 20 interceptions. Only an inch taller than Blake, Townsend serves as a prime example that he can be productive in the NFL without being a prototypical six foot corner.

Blake’s biggest opposition will be if the Steelers select a cornerback in the early rounds of the NFL draft. At Pittsburgh’s selection of 22nd overall in the first round, corners such as Marcus Peters, Kevin Johnson, Jalen Collins and P.J. Williams could very well be available for when they are on the clock.

Any of these talented, high-end corners could come in and be an instant upgrade to the defense, but with the depth of knowledge Blake has of the defense, it would give him the upper hand whenever it came to position battles.

Check out his instagram page for his training activities during the offseason so far. Quite impressive!

Only time will tell if Antwon Blake can develop into a premiere starting cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but if the defensive back known for his hard hitting ability continues to play at the level he excelled at during the second half of the 2014 season, he will find himself in a full time starting role. Not bad for a castoff undrafted free agent.

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