Day two of the 2015 NFL draft held much importance for the Pittsburgh Steelers. A day earlier they selected the linebacker that could potentially lead their front seven back to the old ways of terrorizing quarterbacks, and now it was time to focus on the achilles’ heel of their defense in the 2014 season: the cornerback position.
Steelers’ Nation held their breath as the 56th overall selection was about to be announced. Many of the cornerbacks that would have been excellent additions to Pittsburgh’s secondary had already been claimed in the first round. There was no way the could go without addressing the position this early. Steelers’ legend Mel Blount, who was drafted 45 years earlier, read off the newest addition to the team.
Senquez Goldson – Defensive Back – Mississippi.
Even though they finally selected a cornerback early in the draft after failing to do so for so many years, many scoffed at the pick. Barely 5’9″? Originally projected to be a third or fourth round selection? The argument was made that a corner over six foot was more ideal, as does anyone with a “height fixes everything in football” mentality. For good or ill the decision was final.
Starting in games in all four years of his time at the University of Mississippi, Golson grew in skill and notoriety by the time he reached his senior year. He ended his collegiate career with 136 tackles, 16 interceptions, and one returned touchdown. Golson also became the first defensive player in Ole Miss history to earn Unanimous All-American honors.
Arriving to OTAs and mini camp, Golson entered a very fragile situation at cornerback. Veteran William Gay leads a ratag group comprised of undrafted free agents, castoffs, and young talent who could not handle the expectations placed upon them. Although there was some success towards the end of the season, it could be seen there were still some issues that needed to be resolved.
Golson has the talent as an athlete to excel in his rookie year for the Steelers. Galloping speed allowed him to overtake his opposing receivers, and great hand-eye coordination, along with a near 30 inch arm span, aided in his ability to make the number of interceptions that he did. Unaverage height or not, there is much potential in this young man to be a threat on defense.
"“Smooth guy, doesn’t really say too much. Seems like he’s focusing on his business. Im liking what im seeing from him.”"
High praise from arguably one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Brown, who stands 5’10”, is considered short for his position, as well. As he has proven, height can be a nonissue if vigorous training and dedication to improving as an athlete are priority. While Brown was a sixth round draft pick without much notoriety, Golson was a pick unwanted by many and can prove that he can be the shutdown cornerback the Steelers need on defense in the future.
Shutdown corner isnt a term that should be thrown lightly. Especially when referencing a player that has yet to play a down of professional football. Instead of Kevin Johnson or Marcus Peters, Golson could prove to be a better player at the position than his first round counterparts. Steelers’ Nation would be glad to know they got a first round talent at a second round value.
Take Darrelle Revis as an example. Only two inches taller and twenty pounds heavier than Golson, Revis has spent nearly a decade as a shutdown corner in the NFL under six foot tall. Golson has time to bulk up as his career progresses, giving him time to groom into the talented defensive back the Steelers envisioned him to be when they grabbed him early.
May 26, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Senquez Golson (27) participates in OTA drills at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
William Gay and Antwon Blake look to be the two starting cornerbacks when the Steelers begin the 2015 season against the New England Patriots. Barring injury, Golson will most likely start in the nickel slot and be able to roam around in the backfield. It is a position that he is well suited to play and can contribute in a large way.
It is also possible that we could see Golson starting earlier than anticipated. While Blake did show promise last year, he does not have much experience when it comes to being a full time starter. Regression can occur at any point and in any player, and Golson must be ready to take advantage if that opportunity should it present itself.
We will see how Senquez Golson progresses as we enter training camp and the preseason. The talented young man has a bright future ahead of him, and it will be exciting to see it all unfold. The Steelers are in need of a shutdown cornerback and, if he lives up to expectations, we can see the worries of the secondary become a thing of the past in a few seasons’ time.
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