Rookie defensive back Golson is eager for delayed Steelers debut
The most impactful addition to the Steelers secondary in 2016 might have been on their roster this past season.
But Senquez Golson doesn't want to talk about just how big a part he'll be of future Steelers defenses.
He'll be happy just to be able to be a regular part of practice.
“I'm just so anxious to get on the field right now,” said Golson, a playmaking cornerback the Steelers took in the second round last May. “I'll do whatever they ask me to do. At this point, I just want to be out there playing football.”
For Golson — the second-youngest player on the Steelers roster at 22 — 2015 was a season unlike any he'd been a part of before.
The Steelers' highest-picked cornerback in the draft in a decade (No. 56 overall) after being a unanimous first-team All-American at Ole Miss, Golson was the answer to fans' seemingly neverending pleas for a high-pedigree cornerback.
Athletic enough that he also had been drafted by the Boston Red Sox, Golson had a school-record 10 interceptions as a senior. To put that number into perspective, the Steelers got a combined seven from all their cornerbacks this season.
In rookie camp and other summer workouts, it showed.
“At OTAs and minicamp, he was doing good things,” teammate Antwon Blake said. “Looking very much the part of a ballhawk.”
But it was during minicamp in June when Golson said he injured his left shoulder.
When training camp opened July 25 in Latrobe, Golson was on the physically unable to perform list.
By the time camp broke, Golson had undergone surgery, and his rookie season was over before it had started when he was placed on injured reserve.
“It was my first time ever going through something like this,” Golson said this week.
“(But) this definitely wasn't a wasted year for me. I learned a lot as far as just watching football, understanding what tendencies are different than college and things like that. It was definitely beneficial to me.”
Golson was relegated to watching as the Steelers passing defense ranked 30th in the NFL. The team scrambled to acquire players at his position (Brandon Boykin, Ross Cockrell) because they'd planned on Golson playing a contributing role.
But with a new year came a fresh start for Golson. He said he was “cleared” Jan. 1.
The New Year's Day development puts Golson on track for a “normal” offseason of football training.
“I'm still in the process of getting back to where I want to be,” he said, “but I'm definitely ready to, though.”
Golson spent the season attending position meetings and said he was grateful to learn what it takes to be a professional. Nine-year veteran cornerback William Gay, in particular, was a role model.
Such experiences are why coach Mike Tomlin said he's expecting Golson to hit the ground running in 2016.
“I'm very up-front about what I expect from him. I expect him to come back and perform like a guy that's been a part of us — and he has,” Tomlin said. “He hadn't played, but he's been a part of us. He's been in our environment. He understands what we expect.
“He understands how we work, and he's had a chance to grow from a football-intellect standpoint. All of those things should show up in his play as we begin '16.”