The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a good offseason thus far. (It would have been great had troubled wide receiver Martavis Bryant not been suspended for the entire 2016 season, but that is a story that's been beaten down more times than the Cleveland Browns.)
The Steelers signed some of their own free agents to team friendly deals (Ramon Foster, William Gay, Robert Golden, and Darrius Heyward-Bey come to mind), signed a young tight end who will be expected to contribute immediately (Ladarius Green) while several other players became former Steelers after finding more money elsewhere (Kelvin Beachum) and others got one year deals with other teams (Antwon Blake and Sean Spence in Tennessee, Terence Garvin in Washington).
While the focus of the team is now more on the NFL draft next month than finding diamonds in the free agency rough, one player has not grabbed too many headlines: cornerback Brandon Boykin. Boykin, without a doubt, was the most enigmatic player to don the Black and Gold in years.
Just a quick recap: the Steelers traded a conditional draft pick for Boykin, who left Philadelphia bashing then-coach Chip Kelly, which has become a rite of passage in the last three years (also see LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Evan Mathis, Cary Williams, Boykin, etc.). Many Steelers fans were excited: Boykin has ball-hawk skills, getting 7 career interceptions in three seasons with the Eagles, which meant only William Gay, with 9 career interceptions entering 2015, had more picks among Steelers' cornerbacks (and Gay has five more years accrued than Boykin).
The reasons to get excited about Boykin, who entered 2015 in a contract year and thus more motivated to play well, were justified. Then the 2015 season kicked off with Boykin not playing much. Rumors swirled around, of course, ranging from the conditional draft pick which would be a 4th round pick if Boykin played in a majority of the defensive snaps, to how William Gay is better suited as a slot corner than Boykin, to how Antwon Blake might be related to Mike Tomlin. Heck, by midseason, even Tomlin fielded questions about why Boykin wasn't playing much in his weekly press conferences. In true Tomlin style, Tomlin gave non-committal answers but starting in week 13 against Indianapolis, Boykin began to see much more time on defense, even getting an interception against the Colts, much to the elation of Steelers fans everywhere.
However, now the offseason has begun, there is one burning question: how come no one has signed Brandon Boykin?
The player who Steeler Nation thought was a steal at a 5th round draft pick trade is on the open market, waiting to be picked up. It's not like Boykin is coming off an injury that requires a prolonged time to recuperate. Boykin also is not an older player like James Harrison, who at soon to be 38, does not require too much practice time and offseason workouts. Boykin will be 26 when the 2016 season begins and through two weeks of free agency, his name has not been thrown around very much. Boykin has said all the right things about how he would leave the door open for a possible return to the Steelers, but how come no one else in the league has signed him?
In today's social media frenzy age, if a player even walked into a NFL team's office, we would all know about it five minutes later. There hasn't been hardly any news of Boykin visiting other teams. Even the embattled Blake visited several teams (including the New England Patriots) before signing with Tennessee. Is Boykin another classic case of front offices and coaching staffs knowing something about a player that the fans and the media don't? While Kevin Colbert has expressed earlier the Steelers would target defensive backs in the upcoming draft, perhaps having someone like Boykin would lessen the pressure of picking a rookie cornerback next month. Chances are, Boykin will be signed by a team (perhaps even the Steelers) sooner than later. But along with his strange 2015 season, Boykin's 2016 offseason is a mystery to many fans. Maybe there are still some secrets left in this social media world after all.