When it comes to Pittsburgh Steelers corner Ross Cockrell you may question his ability on becoming a full-time starter. While Cockrell wasn't added to the 53-man roster on September 5th, he missed all of the Steelers preseason games. At first, he was not expected to play a major role on defense, but with the injury problems of Cortez Allen this quickly changed.
In 2015, Cockrell showed fans a glimpse of what he has to offer. He quickly learned the defense and provided solid plays throughout the season. This year, he racked up 44 tackles, two interceptions, forced a fumble and recovered two, one against the Cincinnati Bengals in the playoffs. This fumble recovery provided Pittsburgh another opportunity to possess the football and a chance to win the playoff game.
There are a few key plays that will show you he can succeed as a starting cornerback. In a week 9 matchup against the Oakland Raiders, Cockrell intercepted Derek Carr in the redzone. This play proved to be costly as the Raiders had clear momentum and were trying to tie the football game. Although Pittsburgh didn't do anything with Cockrell's solid return, it swung momentum and certainly was a defining factor.
Cockrell only has a few starts under his belt with Pittsburgh, but this is certainly better than the always injured former fourth-round cornerback Cortez Allen. A main question is when isn't Allen on the bench or injured? His inconsistent play and lack of confidence is nothing but pure disappointment. Cockrell seems to have the defense down. He just needs to continue to play smart, physical and have confidence then he should beat out Allen for the starting spot.
The Steelers are a very tricky team when it comes to naming starters. Antwon Blake, who recently left for the Tennessee Titans, logged more snaps than fellow teammate Brandon Boykin last season. Mike Tomlin seems to have confidence in players who try their best and succeed when under extreme conditions. Ross Cockrell has provided wins for the Steelers at the necessary times. Lets face it - without Cockrell the Steelers might have lost against the Raiders, and maybe not have recovered that fumble against the Bengals in the playoffs, but who knows.
Everyone knows that Pittsburgh's secondary is in disarray. They have to select key players in this year's draft in order to help rebuild the defense. According to the Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, the Steelers will be targeting a cornerback in the early rounds of the NFL Draft. This news came out a few days ago and certainly is needed as the secondary was ranked 30th in passing yards allowed. It is no secret that defense wins championships and just a little upgrade could be a big factor going into 2016.
In my opinion, I believe Cockrell has what it takes to become a starting cornerback. His physicality, football knowledge, and as Mike Tomlin says, "Splash Plays" certainly are something to look forward to come next season. He still has a lot to learn but should improve as time progresses.
It would be perfectly okay to believe that Cockrell could be a starting cornerback next season. The team's best cornerbacks consist of William Gay, who is a 31-year old veteran, and a player in Brandon Boykin, who might not be with Pittsburgh next season. The secondary is the main priority in the draft and with the emergence of Cockrell, he could be a defining factor on defense in 2016.