The Pittsburgh Steelers 2016 preseason schedule starts Friday night with a game against the Detroit Lions at Heinz Field.
- “What to watch for in the game” will be a headline in many newspapers and online publications.
But you know how a Steelers preseason game usually unfolds; stars like Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown will quickly get their work in and will be on the sidelines with towels around their necks long before most of the fans have gotten comfortable in their yellow seats. (Roethlisberger and Brown could probably take the entire month of August off and still be effective in Week 1).
Let’s face it, no matter how you may have sliced it leading up to 2016 NFL Draft, the Steelers needed to address their secondary. The fact that they did so in the first two rounds lends more credence to that sentiment.
Adding two young defensive backs to a secondary that was supposed to include another one in 2015 second round pick Senquez Golson was downright exciting as training camp approached. Sadly, Golson, a corner out of Ole Miss, suffered a Lisfranc sprain during a practice at Steelers training camp on August 1. A week later, it was reported that Golson had surgery on that injury and is expected to miss up to four months of action.
- For a second-year player who missed his entire rookie season after undergoing shoulder surgery, that’s rather discouraging news.
But as Meatloaf once said, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”
The Steelers will still unveil two shiny new toys this Friday night.
Word has that the first-rounder Artie Burns, a corner out of Miami, has struggled a bit so far at training camp while attempting to cover the likes of Antonio Brown. Meanwhile, Davis, who was slated to play safety at the pro-level after playing both safety and corner at Maryland, is said to be having a very good camp.
- Senquez Golson was being counted on to play the slot this year, and with him out of action, Davis has benefited with a ton of reps at the position.
No matter how you evaluate each player’s performance in camp, there’s no question both are vital to the future success of the Steelers secondary.
The defense finished 27th and then 30th against the pass over the past two seasons, and an infusion of young talent on the back-end of the defense was clearly a priority.
Will Steelers Offseason Efforts to Beef Up the Secondary Work…?
Going back in time, the 49ers finished 27th against the pass in 1980 after finishing 24th the year before that. How did Bill Walsh, the team’s innovative head coach, respond to this clear problem?
By using four of his first five picks to select defensive backs in the 1981 NFL Draft. In doing so, the 49ers struck gold with two gems in cornerback Eric Wright and safety Carlton Williamson in rounds three and four, respectively. In Round 1, Walsh unearthed a future Hall of Famer when he had the good sense to select safety Ronnie Lott.
Lott, Williamson and Wright immediately became starters and combined for nine interceptions, as San Francisco improved to third against the pass in ’81. Furthermore, the 49ers, who finished 6-10 the season before, won 13 regular season games on the way to capturing Super Bowl XVI.
The good news for the 2016 Steelers is, unlike that San Francisco team from 35 years ago, they’re already considered Super Bowl contenders, and wouldn’t shock the world by capturing a seventh Lombardi next February.
- So what am I trying to prove by citing a Ronald Reagan era 49ers team in this piece?
Only that, if you have a problem area on your football team, it’s perfecting fine to aggressively address it in the draft.
Were Lott, Wright and Williamson considered “great draft value” based on where the 49ers picked them? Who knows, but the team addressed a major area of need, and, perhaps more importantly, three young players were thrown into the mix right away and excelled.
This isn’t to say Artie Burns and Sean Davis should step in right away and start from Day 1–although, if that were the case, that might not be the worst thing in the world.
Personally, I don’t care if Pittsburgh loses 30-0 this Friday. If Burns and Davis stand out in some way, it could be a very important first step for the Steelers’ much-maligned secondary.