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Tomlin, coaches eye challenge of coaching up young high pedigree talent in cornerback group

Steelers Buzz

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has always been the type of coach who is drawn to high pedigree players and a believer that he can be the one to coach them up the right way.

Cornerback Justin Gilbert is the latest experiment for Tomlin and the Steelers coaching staff.

The 8th overall pick in 2014, the Steelers also had Gilbert rated in the top-10 on the their board and Gilbert was one of two primary trade up candidates they planned to consider moving up for if he had fell out of the top-10. The other top target was WR Odell Beckham, Jr.

Gilbert a complete bust with the Browns was acquired for a 6th round pick in 2018 on Saturday.

Despite the off-field baggage and Gilbert’s inability to even be an adequate cornerback at the NFL level in two seasons, Tomlin couldn’t care less.

He see’s this player as a talent that he and his staff can potentially fix.

“We don’t care what happened in Cleveland, to be quite honest with you,” Tomlin said on Tuesday. “We’re not asking a bunch of questions in that regard. We’re simply acquiring a young corner that another team didn’t want or need and putting him in our environment.”

“His pedigree speaks for itself, ” Tomlin said of Gilbert. “He’s a guy we had a great deal of respect for when he came out of the draft. And anytime those young guys are potentially available to us, we’re open to pursuing them provided there is a need and an opportunity.”

Opportunity will be there for Gilbert and several others as the cornerback position is in flux.

William Gay and Ross Cockrell are fully entrenched as the starters, though, Cockrell doesn’t have the resume built up yet to preclude an Artie Burns or Justin Gilbert over-taking him by mid-season.

If anything the Steelers might have their most talented group of No 3 and No. 4 corners in Burns and Gilbert, two former first round picks, along with safety Sean Davis (2nd round pick) who will play a lot of slot corner in the early stages of the season.

What is a major unknown is whether any of the young corners can actually play when the lights are on and play well enough right away.

The cornerback group has just as many question marks as past years. Starting Monday night vs the Redskins, there just might be more boom or bust with this group due to the high pedigree talent there is after the two starters.

In addition to Gilbert, Burns and Davis who is a combo cornerback/safety, the Steelers also have Senquez Golson potentially coming into play after this month.

Medical reports in the past 10 days have the Steelers not ready to close the door on being an option this season and even by mid-season.

“Senquez Golson is still on the team, so we can characterize his availability as week-to-week,” Tomlin said. “We’ll continue to characterize it as that, and if something comes up where we have to make a decision on that roster spot, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But we’re optimistic about his ability to be available to us at some point.”[/hide]

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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