You can add cornerback Antwon Blake to the growing list of Steelers defensive free-agents who won’t be around in 2016.
- As per their official team website, the Titans have reached an agreement on a one-year deal with Blake, who started 16 games in Pittsburgh a year ago.
Blake, an undrafted free-agent out of UTEP in 2012, played one year with the Jaguars, before winding up in Pittsburgh for the 2013 season. Blake was simply on the peripheral of things until about midway through the 2014 campaign, when he began to emerge as a key component in the Steelers’ struggling secondary.
- Blake teamed up with Brice McCain to shore up the pass-defense, after it was apparent that Cortez Allen, he of the lucrative new offseason contract, simply wasn’t up to the task.
By the end of the 2014 season, Allen was benched, and Blake was a major contributor, recording six passes defensed and an interception. However, Blake’s biggest contribution came in Week 17, when he both forced and recovered a fumble of Bengals receiver A.J. Green late in the fourth quarter that preserved a 20-17 lead and paved the way for the Steelers’ first AFC North title in four seasons.
A season ago, Blake was entrusted as a starting corner, and despite recording 11 passes defensed, along with a 70-yard pick-six against the Chargers in Week 5, he was mostly the subject for fan scorn and ridicule, as Pittsburgh’s defense finished 30th against the pass.
- Blake joins fellow ex-Steeler Sean Spence in Tennessee, one day after the reserve inside linebacker agreed to a contract with the Titans.
Blake may not have been the answer in the secondary, but the question of who is still remains.
As of right now, the Steelers have veteran William Gay and youngster Ross Cockrell as corners, to go along with veteran Mike Mitchell and unproven youngster Robert Golden at the safety spots.
You have to assume that the experiment with Allen is all but over after five years and one contract extension. As for Shamarko Thomas, the safety Pittsburgh traded a third round pick to move up in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft to select, he impressed so little in 2015 (the year he was supposed to succeed the legendary Troy Polamalu), he barely got on the field.
Senquez Golson and Doran Grant, two members of the 2015 draft class, may provide some answers in the secondary. Also, veteran safety Will Allen is still unsigned, as is corner Brandon Boykin, who spent last season with the Steelers. If one or both of those players can be added back to the secondary mix for 2016, you may feel better about things.
- As of right now, however, there are far too many unknowns in the Steelers’ defensive backfield to feel confident about an improved pass-defense for the 2016 season.