Brandon Boykin finally getting a look in Steelers secondary


Russell Wilson's five-touchdown day created a potential boiling point for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, sparking spirited conversation in coaches' meeting rooms about how to configure the secondary.

Bench staple Brandon Boykin is at the center of debate.

Ross Cockrell, William Gay and Antwon Blake have started at cornerback all season while Boykin, acquired in a trade with Philly, has played less than 25 snaps.

With the Steelers giving up 284 yards per game through the air (only the Giants are worse), coach Mike Tomlin is re-assessing the back end.

"We just had a brief conversation about it and acknowledged that those things are on the table yesterday," Tomlin said ."We're yet to formulate any hardcore decisions in that regard because those meetings occur later on in the day. But we acknowledge that those guys need to play better.

"Particularly, they need to tackle better."

Tomlin stressed that Blake and Cockrell will have chances to rebound, starting this week in practice.

The reference to tackling better is crucial, because from a situational standpoint, the Steelers' defense is predicated on keeping receivers in front and taking them down. The Steelers struggled with this as Wilson threw for 345 yards, 107 yards more than his average through the first 10 games. Doug Baldwin slipping past defenders and streaking down the sideline for the 80-yard, game-winning score encapsulated the rough day.

The Steelers could survive giving up big yardage if they got sacks, turnovers and red-zone stops, which was the case for much of the year. Not Sunday. Blake has stayed in the lineup because he's a physical tackler, but if he's missing tackles, that could clear the path for Boykin.

One option, Tomlin said, is sliding Gay to the outside and playing Boykin in the slot -- this was what I thought the plan would be when they acquired Boykin in training camp. Boykin was considered one of the league's better slot corners, and Gay has experience on the outside. But by keeping Gay inside, they couldn't play two smaller corners -- Boykin and Blake -- together on the outside. That's how Cockrell, with more size, cracked the lineup.

Boykin is eager to play and could provide a much-needed spark. This will play out all week in practices, which just got more intriguing.

"I acknowledge that it is going to be a big discussion as we prepare this week."