NFL teams often add and subtract players before the regular season begins. When it comes to "cut down day", one team's trash is another team's treasure. This was the case for CB Ross Cockrell, released by the Buffalo Bills and then signed shortly after the league's 53-man roster cut downs by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The caveat with most of these last-minute transactions is that the players involved are normally signed for depth and won't be relied on to see the playing field besides special teams duty, barring an injury to a regular starter. For the Steelers and Cockrell, that's been exactly the case in the days leading up to the Week 2 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.
An injury to Cortez Allen's knee and a nagging groin injury to Brandon Boykin have thrust Cockrell into some 11 vs. 11 defensive work for the Black-and-Gold. In fact, if Boykin isn't able to play Sunday, Cockrell is the third cornerback on the field. As for Cockrell's attitude towards his debut, he is ready.
"My role is to serve this defense as best I can," Cockrell told Ralph Paulk of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "We'll see what that turns out to be, but I'm prepared for everything. They don't bring you on the team unless you're ready to play."
The transition from one defensive system to another isn't always easy, but Cockrell attributes his acclimation to the Steelers' new system of coach Keith Butler to Cortez Allen.
"Cortez has been great, and he's helped me a lot," said Cockrell, a fourth-round pick in 2014. "I'm learning the nuance of the playbook, so I give Cortez credit for that. I'm prepared to special teams, defense and if they need me, I'll play receiver."
The Steelers are hoping they won't need Cockrell at wide receiver, but for a franchise which struggled to snag a fourth-round defensive back who has remained on the roster, they're hoping this former fourth-round pick out of Duke is able to fill the team's desperate need for quality depth at the cornerback position.
With Allen likely out of the lineup on Sunday and Boykin's participation very much in question, it looks as if Cockrell will be thrown into the fire. The Steelers are going to see if Cockrell will sink or swim in his debut with the team, and the organization and fans alike are hoping Cockrell is more than capable of staying afloat in the team's secondary.