I don't know what it says about the Steelers secondary when a former fourth round pick with six career starts can come to Pittsburgh via trade and be perhaps the team's most talented cornerback before he even sets foot on St. Vincent College campus.
However, that appears to be the case after Saturday's trade with Philadelphia that made Brandon Boykin a Steeler and, amid all the injuries and uncertainty in the secondary, gave people a feeling of excitement. Is the excitement real? And, if Boykin is such a talented player, why did he have a hard time breaking into the starting lineup with the Eagles? Maybe it was a personality clash with Chip Kelly. Maybe there really was a talent log-jam at the position in Philadelphia (something that may be hard to relate to if you're a Steelers fan and aware of their recent secondary issues).
At any rate, Boykin now has a chance in Pittsburgh to make the secondary better. Can he ascend to the top of the depth chart and be the starter he was fairly certain he could be when he was with the Eagles? That remains to be seen, of course, but even if he provides depth and continues his role as a top-flight slot corner, he could prove to be a very valuable commodity for the Steelers.
I honestly believe this could be a special year for the Steelers if things fall into place. The offense is just about there and looks poised to take the team on a championship journey if the defense is willing to provide just a little bit of a push. However, it's kind of hard to have even a respectable defense when the secondary seems to produce new questions before the coaching staff can even answer the old ones. It has to be a helpless feeling as a coach when there are so many unknowns at one position including the mental state of Cortez Allen after such a disastrous 2014, or the health issues of rookie Senquez Golson, who hasn't practiced yet and may already be too far behind to wear anything but gray sweats during the regular season.
Speaking of helplessness. Maybe the Steelers really did want to address the position of cornerback in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. But when the top three prospects--Trae Waynes, Kevin Johnson and Marcus Peters--were all picked before Pittsburgh's turn at 22, it didn't really make sense to draft anyone else but linebacker Bud Dupree.
I suppose it may have been easy for the Steelers to stand pat in camp and hope all the questions in the secondary got answered by the players who were already there. However, much like a cornerback who lines up seven or eight yards off the line of scrimmage before each and every snap, by playing passive, you often find that the results are lacking.
It's anyone's guess as to how well Boykin will perform in Pittsburgh and if he really is the answer in the secondary. But with a world-class offense and perhaps the makings of a soon-to-be special front-seven, it's nice to see the Steelers be proactive with a position that could ultimately undo everything.
The trade for Brandon Boykin could be one of those x-factor moves people write about years from now when discussing the 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers.