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Insider Only On Brandon Boykin and the Tomlin County Jail



It’s tough to draw a comparison as a way to describe Brandon Boykin’s brief stay in Pittsburgh. Has there ever been a talent acquisition by one of the three major pro sports teams in town that has been as odd as this one has been?

Especially from how fan and media perception has gone surrounding it?

I’m struggling to think of another player who has been actively sought and acquired by the Pirates, Penguins or Steelers and done so little yet become so popular so quickly with the fan base.

A guy that was cast away from Philadelphia for a 5th round conditional draft pick has been anticipated as a potential contributor by many following the Steelers as if he was a first round quarterback getting seasoning on the bench for a year behind an aging veteran.

It’s the ultimate “grass is always greener” situation. Antwon Blake has been so bad at one cornerback spot, Brandon Boykin just has to be better…doesn’t he? After all, he came here with some acclaim as a capable defensive back in Philly. The book on him from some was that he was a decent corner that saw himself as a starter, but the Eagles viewed him as being limited to nothing more than a nickel-or-dime defense kind of guy.

He hasn’t even been that for Pittsburgh. This despite the fact that he impressed quickly in camp practices and flashed on a few plays in the first two or three preseason games. But as the regular season approached he never threatened to get into meaningful minutes of a game.

So why did the team trade for him then? Rarely before has a player who almost never sees the field been so prominently mentioned on the postgame call in shows and the blogs. The theories flew around the internet and radio waves as to why his playing time has been next to nothing.

He’s a bad practice player. He and Tomlin had a falling out early about playing time. Kevin Colbert wants to keep his snaps down so the pick condition doesn’t jump a round. He has trouble keeping his feet and falls down too much. He can’t pick up the defense.

All of those rumors may be true to one degree or another. But also none of them have been corroborated to the point that they deserve to be called a real “reason” as to why Boykin’s butt has been nailed to the bench as the Steeler pass defense has sunk to 30th in the league in yds/game allowed.

“Coming here, if you had told me I wouldn’t be playing the position that I thought I was the best at, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Boykin Wednesday. “But it has happened. And I’ve got a responsibility as a professional to handle it the right way and just be someone who isn’t a distraction to his teammates.”

When asked about why Boykin hasn’t been allowed to play more instead of either Blake or Ross Cockrell, Tomlin made it sound as if the team has been hesitant to play him outside while Willie Gay has been performing admirably in the slot.

“Since we’ve acquired him he’s done a nice job of learning what to do. But he has really distinguished himself as an interior corner. And the play of William Gay there has been rock solid for us start to finish,” Tomlin assessed Tuesday afternoon. “It hasn’t been a big discussion about repping him (Boykin) to this point. I acknowledge that it will be this week.”

Maybe it should have been weeks earlier. Because it’s a little hard to buy into the notion that a draft choice was given up just so Boykin could be injury insurance for William Gay. So does that mean the Steelers basically saw him as being equally incapable of being good on the outside just like the Eagles did? And would the Eagles have at least played him more on the outside if the best guy in front of him on their roster was no better than Antwon Blake?! Factor in as well that allegedly Blake’s best attribute is tackling, and he hasn’t even done that well of late.

“That’s not my call. I think that as a nickel or a corner… like Will Gay… he has the ability to play both. If you can play nickel you can manage and live outside as well. If I needed to go outside and play, and they told me to play outside, I’d do that,” stated Boykin.

Defensive coordinator Keith Butler sounds less than convinced. “I think he’s better in the slot,” Butler said. “Him (Boykin) playing outside? We’ll see…”

Finally this week the Boykin trade may start to bare fruit. Tomlin is on record that he may be in the mix more often starting this Sunday against the Colts. But it might be minimal. Some close to the team are speculating that Blake may stay on the field in running situations, and Gay may only bump outside to replace him in passing situations. Thus, only allowing Boykin to slide into the slot in sub packages. In fact, Butler went so far as to state, Boykin will be kept on the sideline in run Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

Tim Benz

TIOPS Columnist

Tim Benz can be heard on the Pittsburgh Steelers Radio Network post game show and M-F 10-1 on TribLive Radio

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