The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is in a transition period and no area has more question marks heading into the 2015 season than the secondary.
Gone are longtime mainstays like safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor, two players that had been among the most dependable players of the Steelers secondary for the past decade.
Who will now step up and fill the void in a Steelers secondary, that already had it’s share of problems this past season?
There are no easy answers and the potential answers are made up of mostly question marks .
William Gay,Cortez Allen,Antwon Blake,Senquez Golson, Doran Grant,Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas and Gerod Holliman are some of those potential answers.
Of the players mentioned above William Gay has the most proven resume with the Steelers.
After many up and down seasons to begin his career,Gay has shown that he may be the Steelers most consistent and reliable defensive back during the past two seasons.
Gay 30, is entering his 9th season and has 76 NFL starts with 9 career interceptions.
Will William Gay continue his consistent reliable ways or has he peaked and reached the downside of his playing days?
Cortez Allen 26, is another of the many question marks. He was drafted by the Steelers in 2011 in the 4th round out of the Citadel.
Allen showed great potential early in his career and showed flashes of being a play-maker. He has 6 interceptions in only 18 NFL starts.The Steelers believed in him so much they signed him to a five-year, $26 million extension going into the 2014 season.
However, Allen failed to live up to expectations in 2014 due to injuries and a lack of confidence. He was benched in the middle of the season and later placed on the injured reserve list.
There is little doubt that Allen has something to prove in 2015 as he heads into his 5th NFL season but the big question is does he have what it takes to be a consistent NFL starter?
For Cortez Allen the time is now or never.
Antwon Blake 24, may be another key piece of the puzzle for the 2015 Steelers secondary.
Blake was claimed by the Steelers off waivers (Jacksonville Jaguars) on September 2, 2013 . He was released by the Jaguars on September 1, 2013 after being signed as an undrafted rookie free agent on May 4, 2012.
Blake has shown to have potential,contributing mostly as quality depth,and on special teams but that may change in 2015. He has one career start, and is now entering his 4th NFL season.
Will Blake be able to take that next big step? He will have plenty of opportunity to contribute in a bigger role this season.
The biggest question in the Steelers secondary maybe at the safety position.
With the retirement of Troy Polamalu the Steelers safety position is now in uncharted waters.
The Steelers picked up safety Mike Mitchell in free agency in 2014 expecting big things but those big things never really materialized .
Mitchell began 2014 training camp with an injured groin and never really fully recovered . He had off-season surgery to repair the torn groin and is expected to be at full strength for 2015.
Was Mitchell’s injuries the main cause of his up and down play in 2014? Will he now deliver the big plays the Steelers expected when they acquired him? Time will soon tell.
Shamarko Thomas will try to man the other safety position, taking over Polamalu’s former spot. Thomas to this point is a bigger mystery than Mitchell.
The Steelers moved up in the 4th round of the 2013 draft to grab Thomas, however his development has been a slow process due to nagging injuries in his first two seasons. Thomas had 2 starts his rookie season and no starts in 2014.
Much is unknown about Thomas heading into 2015, his third NFL season.
Will he be able to finally stay healthy in 2015? Will he live up to the expectations the Steelers envisioned when moving up to take him in the 2013 draft?
2015 will be a crucial season for Shamarko Thomas and the Steelers are expecting him to make great strides heading into his third season.
The Steelers also addressed the secondary in the draft taking cornerback Senquez Golson in the second round of the draft. They also chose cornerback Doran Grant in the 4th round and safety Gerod Holliman in the 7th round.
All of these rookies had stellar careers in college but it would be unrealistic and unfair to expect any major contributions out of any of them in the 2015 season. The transition from college football to the NFL can be tough and rarely is a quick process.
Steeler nation as you can see there are many questions surrounding the Steelers secondary heading into the 2015 season.
Many of these players are question marks with unknown futures as we speak.
However keep in mind, the Steelers once drafted a player in the first round of the 2003 NFL draft with the 16th overall pick. His rookie season was somewhat underwhelming as he failed to start even one game and many questioned why the Steelers moved up to get this player. Heading into his second season, this player was a huge question mark but by the end of that season he had transformed into a huge positive exclamation point !
That player was Steelers great Troy Polamalu.
Which one of these question marks will be the next Steelers explanation point? We shall soon find out.
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