Tag Archives: Ross Cockrell

Keys to the Super Bowl: Defensive Backs Coach Carnell Lake


Via Steelers.com

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Carnell Lake. Back in 2011 or so I went to a Ladies Training Camp, and Lake was one of the speakers. (I suppose as a newbie he got one of the assignments nobody else wanted.) I was so impressed at the time with the way he took us through some film and talked about working with some of the individual players.

Fast-forward to 2016, and there were more than a few people calling for his head. It was entirely understandable. The Steelers had drafted defensive backs—a lot of them—and the results just weren’t there. It’s certainly reasonable to look to the coaching as at least one of the causes when a given position group has disappointed.

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Pittsburgh’s Goin’ to the Super Bowl, Part 2: Cornering the Market

imageAs promised in Part 1,  we will look at one position group per post to assess where the Steelers currently stand. As you can probably guess from my title, I’m beginning with the cornerbacks.

This has been a position of need for years. Steeler Nation has decried, year after year, the lack of a high-round pick being spent upon the secondary, and in particular on the corners. It was not always thus, but it’s been a long time since the last high-round pick was spent on a corner—all the way back to 2015.

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Opponent Preview: The Buffalo Bills

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at San Diego Chargers

via Steelers Wire/USA Today

Anyone who isn’t nervous about this game, please raise your hand. And then please tell us what you are smoking. The Bills are fighting for their playoff lives. The game is on the road. The weather is predicted to be inclement. The Bills have far and away the best rushing numbers in the league. They average 161.9 yards per game on the ground, and only the Cowboys and the Titans are within 20 yards of that. They average 5.4 yards per attempt, which is just crazy. They have 23 rushing touchdowns, and again only the ‘Boys are at all close.

And to make matters worse, the Steelers have not only lost Cameron Heyward, their best run defender, but their next-best, Javon Hargrave, is “Doubtful” for the game as he is still in the concussion protocol.

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On Second Thought: Steelers vs. Jets


Via Steelers.com

Ivan and Homer J both have plenty to say about the game, as you might suspect. Homer’s is in the form of ongoing game notes, ending with a report card, and Ivan wrote a commentary. So I’m going to interleave the two in some sort of hopefully sensible fashion. Ivan’s commentary will be in italics, Homer J’s notes in bold. His Report Card will be in plain text, because that would be an awful lot of boldface…

Here we go. Is this a trap game? The big question is whether Hubbard at right tackle will mean Ben will have to run for his life all day….

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Steelers vs. Jets: No Frequent Flyer Awards


Via Steelers.com

There was a lot to be nervous about for this game. The Jets front four has a fearsome reputation, and when you pair that with the Steelers’ right tackle, Chris Hubbard, getting his first NFL start after looking more like a revolving door than an impediment in the preseason, and with Ramon Foster back but still a bit fragile, it didn’t seem like a recipe for a good game.

And while the Jets offense will probably not be mistaken for The Greatest Show on Turf anytime soon, the Steelers’ defense was missing several important players, and lost another during the game. Had I told you beforehand that Cameron Heyward would be out partway into the game you might feel the game would be a shootout, because despite Ryan Fitzpatrick’s predilection for throwing to the guys in the wrong-colored jersey recently, there was no reason to think any of the Steelers’ DBs would manage to hold onto one if Fitzpatrick threw it to him.

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Steelers vs. Chiefs: The “Righting the Ship” Edition


Jason Bridge/USA Today Sports

I admit it. I was nervous about this game. I was nervous about the Kansas City defense taking out critical Steelers offensive players such as Ben Roethlisberger. (In fact they did manage to take out Darrius Heyward-Bey, who had a touchdown pass and a special teams play which pinned Kansas City at about the 2 yard line. And Marcus Gilbert left with an ankle injury.) I was also worried about Marcus Peters, their second-year corner who leads the universe all-time in interceptions.

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5 Smoldering Questions: Steelers at Washington Edition

vsg_cockrell_685x445_2by Hombre de Acero

1. So if I had told you, I mmediately after playoff loss to the Broncos, that the Steelers would open on Monday Night on the road vs. a defending divisional champion, and absent Health Miller, Le’Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant, the marquee free agent the Steelers signed to replace Heath, Steve McLendon, Markus Wheaton, Will Allen and everyone on their cornerback depth chart not named Gay or Cockrell, what would you have said?

2. Speaking of the post-Heath Miller era, while we don’t have a very strong sample, what is your rapid reaction to the Steelers “Tight end by committee” approach and do you think this can be sustainable long term if need be?

3. After the game Cam Hewyard lamented the lack of pressure on Kirk Cousins. If ESPN’s statistics are correct, the Steelers only touched him twice, and did not sack him at all. Is this enough to trigger your internal worry wart?

4. A big part of the Pittsburgh Steelers mystique comes from the fact that they’re a no frills organization. Decal on one side of the helmet, stood in the shady side of Three Rivers for years, no cheerleaders, etc….

So what do you think of the fact that they’re using “Color Rush” uniforms which are all the rage?

5. This week of course brings up the rematch against the Bengals. Clearly at this point, the Bengals are the Steelers’ hottest divisional rivals. But going beyond the here and now, where do you assess the cumulative impact of the Bengals rivalry with the Steelers relative to the others?

Enjoy these questions, folks, and ponder them well, because Hombre will be out of pocket for a while now. Of course, only Hombre can give us the authentic Smoldering experience, but I n the meantime we will have questions by committee, rather like the Steelers’ tight end cadre. So if there is something you would like to see explored, put it at the end of your comments or shoot me a line… Rebecca

Scouting for Steelers: Let the Shouting Begin

Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Matt Freed/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Tonight is the big night. The season begins, and the hopes and/or fears of Steeler Nation will be presented with some actual evidence.I can’t help but think of last summer, when the defense looked so appalling during the preseason that some had written the Steelers off before an actual down had been played. (You know who you are. I heard some of you call in to sports radio, declaring that if the offense didn’t score 50 points a game the Steelers would lose every one of them.

This season is also full of dire predictions for particularly the secondary. And okay, maybe it will be awful. But last year’s “awful” secondary (and it was admittedly pretty bad at times) took the ball away a few times. And don’t forget that William Gay holds an NFL record for five straight interceptions being returned for touchdowns.

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The Case for the 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers: Part 6


via Vanguard Sports Group

by Ivan Cole

The previous post on the linebackers ended this way:

When you think of what’s going on with this group in combination with the D Line, you are talking about front seven play, which was very good last season, being crazy good going forward. That leaves us with..

The Secondary

How you view this aspect of the team depends upon whether you skew toward being patient and optimistic or impatient and pessimistic. I am the former so I am excited about the possibilities.

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Scouting for Steelers: Defensive Backs

via Steelers.com

I’m focusing on the defense because I’m hoping that most of what we’ve seen from the offense isn’t what we will be seeing with the actual first team on the field. And since the defensive backs are probably the position group that has generated the most angst (I’m guessing TE is a distant second) it’s worth having a look.

As I discovered, it can be pretty hard to figure out who lined up where and who was actually on the field. So I’m just going to approach the group as a whole, making some assumptions about who was likely to have been playing, based upon when the front-line starters mostly packed it in.

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