Joe Haden the latest in the Steelers yearly cornerback sweepstakes
When I think of recent Pittsburgh Steelers teams I think of several things: playoff contenders, division champions, and rotating secondaries.
Maybe the last didn’t pop up on the radar as quickly for casual readers, but if you’ve followed the team’s roster moves for the last few years, you know that they’ve attempted to patch their leaky defensive backfield with a number of draft picks and shrewd offseason moves.
The arrival of former Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden into the fold will count as the sixth such move in as many seasons. Here are how the others have “worked out”.
Antwon “Valentino” Blake
Blake was initially released by the Jacksonville Jaguars and claimed off of waivers by the Steelers prior to the start of the 2013 season. Blake languished on the roster before becoming a starter during the 2015 season.
The Steelers finished 30th in pass defense that season, with Blake accounting for roughly 1/4 of all passing yards relinquished. Blake was not re-signed and moved on to the Titans in 2016 and the Giants this offseason.
Drafted by the Houston Texans in 2009, McCain was released after five seasons with the team in March of 2014. He signed a one-year deal with the Steelers, where he started nine games that season.
McCain moved on to the Miami Dolphins in 2015 and joined Blake with the Titans last season, where he is currently still a member.
McCain is best known for his time with the Steelers for a pick six that was the difference maker on the road against the Jaguars.
Considered one of the top nickel corners in the NFL at the time, Boykin was one of several players who had an issue with then Eagles coach Chip Kelly. The defensive back was traded to the Steelers for a conditional fifth-round draft pick in 2015.
The move was applauded by fans and critics alike, as Pittsburgh’s second round draft choice, Senquez Golson, was injured in training camp, and the team needed someone to replace his anticipated role as a slot corner.
Instead, the move was controversial, as Boykin seldom saw the field, and wasn’t retained for 2016. Boykin moved on to the Carolina Panthers, who cut him two months later and then to the Chicago Bears, where he was placed on Injured Reserve.
He’s currently a member of the Baltimore Ravens.
Let go by the Bills after the 2015 preseason, Cockrell signed with the Steelers and immediately started turning heads by covering Antonio Brown during practices. He saw significant playing time that year and would become the Steelers starter for the 2016 season.
A restricted free agent this offseason, the Steelers brought Cockrell back on a one-year deal. His future now appears to be up in the air with the addition of Joe Haden, despite finishing the 2016 season with a career-high 62 combined tackles, 14 pass deflections, and 16 regular season starts.
The eighth overall selection of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, Gilbert fell out of favor with his original team and would be shipped to Pittsburgh for a sixth-round draft pick.
He was used almost exclusively on special teams, recording a single tackle the entire season.
He was released by the Steelers this February and was later suspended for one year by the league for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.