Steelers cornerback Coty Sensabaugh brings experience, versatility
Taking part in practice with a fourth NFL team over an 18-month span, Coty Sensabaugh could be excused if there was some confusion.
But far from having his head spinning at the Steelers' defensive concepts, Sensabaugh feels right at home and comfortable in the scheme.
“I've been really familiar with this defense,” the veteran cornerback said after an organized team activity session earlier this month. “The terminology might be a little bit different, but for the most part it is the same thing I played in for a few years. So it's just going back to those days and just re-plugging in.”
Sensabaugh played two of the past three seasons in defensive schemes administered under two former longtime Steelers defensive coaches. He was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the fourth round in 2012 and stayed there through 2015, spending the last two seasons with former Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton as his defensive coordinator. In 2015, ex-Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau joined the Tennessee staff.
Current Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler was a disciple of LeBeau's for more than a decade, his successor-in-waiting for almost that long. So even though Sensabaugh had a nomadic 2016 — playing for the Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants — he's back in a defense that comes naturally to him.
“There's zone, you got man, you got trap, you got Cover Zero's ... it's a very raw defense that keeps offenses guessing,” Sensabaugh said. “With Dick LeBeau, he's been coaching probably since 1890. So it's been working for a long time.
“I enjoy this defense, and I really like this team. It's a great group of guys. They have welcomed me with open arms.”
The 5-foot-11, 187-pound Sensabaugh was given a modest two-year contract ($2.6 million, a fraction of which is guaranteed) to add depth and provide insurance for a cornerbacks corps that has question marks:
Is 2016 first-round pick Artie Burns ready to take the next step in Year 2?
Does 11-year veteran William Gay have enough left in the tank to get it done?
How does Ross Cockrell perform with unrestricted free agency pending after the season?
Can 2015 second-round pick Senquez Golson stay healthy enough to appear in a game?
Are rookie draft picks Cameron Sutton (third round) and Brian Allen (fifth round) able to contribute immediately?
“There's enough talent here that we believe we can have a good secondary,” Burns said.
Sensabaugh, 28, spent much of his time with the Titans as their No. 3 cornerback. The Rams signed him to a three-year deal that included a guaranteed $4.5 million in March 2016, but he lost his starting job two games into the season and was released by Week 5.
He finished the season with the Giants, playing 113 snaps over their final 10 regular-season games.
He gradually earned more playing time with New York: By the postseason, he was playing more than half their defensive snaps. Sensabaugh had a sack, a pass defensed and six tackles in the playoff loss at Green Bay.
During OTAs and minicamp for the Steelers, he was seeing time on the outside and in the slot. With plenty of moving parts in the secondary, his role is yet to be defined. But part of Sensabaugh's appeal was his versatility.
“I don't know what they're going to have me at. I played outside and inside, so we will see,” Sensabaugh said.
“At the end of the day, just to make it into these (NFL position) rooms, we all have to want to be the best. It's just some unwritten rule that everybody is trying to take everybody's job — and once you get it, you have to keep it. That's just the way this business works. So I think we all know that and understand that.”