Boykin trade could really help Steelers secondary

Brandon Boykin is one of the NFL’s top slot cornerbacks -- but there’s no reason to think he can’’t play on the outside, too.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Boykin trade could really help Steelers secondary

The Steelers lacked depth at cornerback going into the season, so they decided to trade for one of the better nickelbacks in the league in Brandon Boykin (they sent a fifth-round pick to the Eagles that could turn into a fourth-rounder).

Brice McCain did a decent job for Pittsburgh in the slot in 2014, but he left in free agency. William Gay is also effective in the slot, but seeing as how he is the Steelers’ top cornerback, leaving him on the outside is clearly the plan.

Boykin has been one of the better slot corners in the league the past two years. Back in 2013 he snagged six interceptions despite being on the field for just 51.6 percent of snaps. Last season didn’t result in as many big plays, but Boykin still excelled in his role, limiting QBs to a rating of just 78.2 when they targeted him. That made him a top-five slot cornerback in our grading system.

There’s also no reason why Boykin shouldn’t be able to assume a starting role, either. Presumably he hasn’t been given that opportunity previously due to his lack of ideal height for the position (he’s 5-foot-9), but until he’s given a chance to start it seems unfair to define him as a nickel only. Either way, however, he should provide a big upgrade for a Pittsburgh secondary that needs one.

| Analyst

John joined the PFF team in 2008, providing focused analysis on the NFL draft, team-building strategies, and positional value.

  • Maverick99

    If your grading system is based upon what a player is doing NOW – not before – how do you rate a player in the top 5 when he hasn’t been a starter in the past?

    • ICDogg

      He wrote “top-5 slot cornerback”. That’s a specific role.

      Boykin was easily the Eagles’ best corner the last couple of years, which may be something like the tallest midget. But he was strictly in a slot role. The Eagles did not give him an opportunity to compete for a starting position as they demand taller outside corners with the scheme that they play. The Steelers, who play a defense more suitable to a shorter, athletic corner on the outside, are getting a guy who I would not be surprised will become their starter for the next several years.

      • Tim Edell

        He is a FA after this year it will be interesting to see if they are able to re-sign him or if he wants to test the market.

        • Shaunhan

          The steelers have had bigger corners until recently playing a zone blitz press hybrid now they seem to want more of maybe zone heavy style more tampa 2 cover 2ish hoping to snag some brandon flowers style of players