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Steelers Drop the Ball on Brandon Boykin

Few NFL teams need help in the defensive backfield as badly as the Steelers. During free agency, the team re-signed its best cornerback, William Gay, and cut its worst, Antwon Blake. But the most peculiar decision appears to be the franchise’s willingness to let the talented Brandon Boykin walk with only a few games as a Steeler under his belt.

Boykin visited Carolina earlier this week. While he hasn’t signed yet, the move is an almost certain indication that the DB will be playing elsewhere next season. After three years with Philadelphia, Boykin was traded to Pittsburgh for a fifth-round draft pick; a move many considered a steal for a team probably willing to give up a whole lot more for a competent corner.

What followed was a frustratingly uneventful season for Boykin, who struggled to earn playing time despite the incompetence of his fellow teammates. The few snaps that Boykin did enjoy in 2015 were productive. He recorded a sack, two turnovers and five passes defensed in 273 snaps, or just under 25% of Pittsburgh’s total defensive snaps in 2015.

So why couldn’t Boykin make his mark the way many Steeler fans expected? For one, he is typically viewed as a slot corner with little experience defending outside receivers, and Gay had the slot position on lock care of excellent ball hawking and a number of clutch plays. Ross Cockrell looked decent in his first year, but Blake couldn’t have been less effective if he tried, constantly getting burned on any and all routes by speedsters, rookies, veterans, and even former quarterbacks.

That Boykin couldn’t at least get a chance to play outside led some to believe he was on bad terms with the coach or ownership, but all accounts suggested a very happy relationship.

Considering the glowing reputation of Pittsburgh’s front office – known for its team-friendly deals and strictness on troublemakers – it is mind blogging to think of the lost investment on trading for a player only to have him leave the team less than a year later, having shown no apparent desire to fit him into the scheme somewhere despite his obvious talents.

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