On July 3rd, Pro Football Focus named each NFL team’s “Secret Superstar.” When it came to the Pittsburgh Steelers, their selection may come as a surprise to some. The website gave the honor to Steelers corner Ross Cockrell ahead of the 2017 season. This makes sense when you consider the “secret” aspect of the title. Also, a look into the stats and potential of Cockrell help explain why “superstar” may not be too far off.
Pro Football Focus Names Ross Cockrell the Pittsburgh Steelers “Secret Superstar”
The naming of Cockrell as the Steelers “Secret Superstar” most likely surprised most for a variety of reasons. First, the Steelers have a multitude of valuable players at other positions. There are many players on the Steelers roster whose value outweighs their recognition because of the team’s star power. Additionally, Cockrell received little attention due to fellow corner Artie Burns’ stand out rookie season. Finally, the Steelers are known for having a very weak secondary. This may automatically hurt Cockrell’s recognition in the public eye.
Although surprising, Cockrell being named the Steelers’ “Secret Superstar” is well deserved. Cockrell started all 16 games for the Steelers in 2016, and despite not having many big plays, was very productive. Cockrell helped the Steelers secondary tremendously in 2016 by containing Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. Cockrell also drew top receiver assignments such as Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant, and Odell Beckham Jr. This type of effort is what the Steelers secondary needs to get to a championship level. Cockrell’s increasing potential makes him the perfect candidate for the Pittsburgh Steelers “Secret Superstar”.
This recognition for Cockrell’s efforts have Steelers fans wondering what to expect going forward. At just 25 years of age with a lanky 6’0″, 190 pound build, Cockrell’s potential is through the roof for the remainder of his NFL career. The Duke product made big strides with the Steelers in the 2016 season, and may very well continue this trend next year. Playing in the last year of his contract, Cockrell will be trying to prove that he is worth an investment in the off-season. This will most likely serve as a stimulant for his development and progression this season.
A Team Effort
Cockrell certainly deserves the attention he was given by Pro Football Focus. With statistics to back up a visible improvement, Cockrell is clearly making strides to become the corner the Steelers need to make a championship run. Pittsburgh also needs Cockrell to be a mentor in the development of Burns. Much like Mike Mitchell has aided in the growth of safety Sean Davis, Cockrell also could serve to help mentor Burns. With the young and dynamic secondary working effortlessly to improve, there should be a noticeable improvement in 2017.
Although Cockrell wasn’t drafted by the Steelers, he certainly is in the long-term plans for a championship team. His services will be well needed in 2017, as the Steelers try to repeat as AFC North champions. More importantly, Cockrell playing well could help the Steelers get past the New England Patriots should they meet in the playoffs. In 2017, Ross Cockrell being Pittsburgh’s “Secret Superstar” would be a tremendous sign for the Steelers.