The title of my article isn't to suggest that Senquez Golson, the Steelers second round pick out of Ole Miss a year ago, had a mistake-filled rookie campaign and needs to come to camp this summer with his head on straight.
No, that's not it at all. Instead, what I mean is the slate that is Pittsburgh's cornerback position will be pretty clean for Golson in 2016, what with the departures of Antwon Blake, Brandon Boykin and most-likely Cortez Allen.
Sure, William Gay will be around next year, as will Ross Cockrell. But while one is a consistent veteran and the other is a promising youngster, neither will make you forget about Rod Woodson any time soon.
My point is, what better time for a second-year corner who has yet to leave you with any stinging realities about his actual play--Golson missed all of 2015 with a shoulder injury--to come in as a sensation at a position that sorely needs one?
Golson came to Pittsburgh as a bit of a polarizing selection last spring, but it was kind of hard to blame people, considering his NFL.com draft profile had him projected as a third or fourth round pick. Also, there was the matter of Golson's height, which is 5'9", and his weight which is either 176 pounds of 192, depending on if you're reading the Steelers official website or Golson's Wikipedia page.
But Golson wouldn't be the first Steelers' second round pick to be met with concern and hissy fits. Three years ago, the selection of running back Le'Veon Bell was criticized by many--mainly because he wasn't Eddie Lacy.
Count me among those who criticized the selection of Bell out of Michigan State. Much like 2015, when I was one of the people questioning Golson's measurables, I was a bit down on the selection of Bell three springs ago. I thought he was too slow and perhaps prone to injury, due to carrying the football 382 times in his final season as a Spartan.
Oh yeah, and he wasn't Eddie Lacy.
However, after quickly ascending to the upper-echelon of running backs and becoming perhaps the very best in the league, I'm now wondering how Bell lasted past the top 10 of the 2013 NFL Draft, and I'm certainly on-board with the selection (where can I buy a #26 Bell jersey?)
Sure, Bell has had some injury problems during his short career, but they can mostly be attributed to low and/or dirty hits by the Bengals and have nothing to do with a proneness to them.
Just like he did in 2013, when he propped up his young running back while others were looking at him with a cynical eye, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had some nice things to say about his second-year corner during his talk with the media last week in Boca Raton, Florida:
"We are excited about getting Golson back in the mix," Tomlin said. "I think oftentimes he is forgotten about. We were excited about him a year ago when we drafted him. I still share that same level of excitement. I can't wait to get him on the grass."
Who cares about people like me being critical? If your head coach, the man with the definitive whistle, is singing your praises, that's not a slate; that's a canvas for you to paint a beautiful picture.
Maybe the Steelers will finally pull the trigger this year and draft a corner in the first round on April 28, and maybe Doran Grant, a 2015 fourth round pick out of Ohio State, will also take advantage of a clean slate. But even if one or both of those things happen, so what? It isn't as if vast improvements at the position aren't necessary.
Six years ago, when center Maurkice Pouncey began doing his thing at OTAs shortly after being taken in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, it was quite apparent he was the most talented offensive lineman on the roster. However, even after a rookie season that included a Pro Bowl appearance, that didn't stop the Steelers from surrounding Pouncey with more talent, as three linemen were selected with high picks over the next two drafts.
Nobody knows if Golson's size will be a hindrance at the pro level or if it will ultimately prevent him from starting on the outside. But the good news for him is he's not Blake, Allen or anyone else who has caused fans to rip their hair out in frustration in recent years--just ask Brandon Boykin how quickly you can ascend to fan-favorite by not playing.
However, unlike Boykin, the Steelers have a lot invested in Golson. It's one thing to trade a fourth or fifth round pick to bring in a guy with one year left before free-agency; it's quite another to use a second round pick on someone who plays a position you hope to improve, and fast (second rounders are generally expected to start sooner rather than later).
Golson had a productive senior season at Ole Miss in-which he intercepted 10 passes, and, again referencing his draft profile, he has a passion and a love for the game of football and decided to go to college instead of playing professional baseball right out of high school (he was selected in the eighth round by the Boston Red Sox in the 2011 amateur baseball draft).
Senquez Golson has a chance to use his ball-skills and passion for football to turn a Steelers' weakness into a strength.
He also has a chance make the fans as excited as his boss.