LATROBE, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Steelers defensive backs look ready for the challenge presented by the trade for Brandon Boykin, even without Senquez Golson, who told me surgery is an option and whether or not he'll be shut down for the season will be decided in the next week.
Monday's one-on-one sessions -- receivers against cornerbacks -- proved valuable for cornerback Cortez Allen, who got two straight stops against Antonio Brown. Ben Roethlisberger wasn't throwing (off day), but still a good sign for Allen, who looks smooth out there when he's confident and healthy. Boykin, in his second practice with the team, got a stretched-out pass deflection on the very next play. Allen and Boykin gave each other a pound, and the Steelers' defensive backs were off. The growth of this group will be something to watch all camp.
Boykin also broke up a pass intended for Sammie Coates in red zone play, eliciting a 'new dude' response from coach Mike Tomlin. The intensity from this group was pretty good, especially when holding the offense to 1-of-7 passing from the 5-yard line in early practice red-zone work. Safety Will Allen, corner William Gay and safety Gerod Holliman all had pass breakups.
You don't need to watch Boykin long before his ball skills start to stand out. Considering Golson is still a relative unknown, Boykin can be viewed as a short-term upgrade. And fourth-round rookie Doran Grant will play this season -- mark it down. He possesses physicality and instincts. Veteran corner Antwon Blake will give up the occasional big play but he's a physical tackler.
If I heard correctly, Tomlin told Gay late in practice that he was "low mo" (low emotion) in regards to being a veteran and big brother to the older corners. Not sure what that's about. I think he just wants Gay, a trusted veteran, to be vocal.
While discussing one-on-ones, this wasn't the best day for Coates, whose timing with quarterbacks was off. His play didn't look overly inspired, failing to stretch for one ball thrown to the corner of the end zone. It was in his vicinity. Coates has had some bright moments and looked better Sunday but today was not ideal for him, though he did catch a nice lob in the corner of the end zone.
Devin Gardner -- yeah, that Devin Gardner, the Michigan quarterback -- got singled out by OC Todd Haley for running a clean route to the corner of the end zone. "That's what we want it to look like," Haley said. He's got a way outside shot to make the team but the improvement is there.
Roethlisberger had an off day but was reading from the play-call sheet in a red-zone drill, calling the plays for Landry Jones. Good twist for the offense.
Jones was spotty early on but had several nice throws midday. Over the last five days, about one-and-a-half of those days was subpar. The rest was very solid. That's a much better ratio than in offseason workouts.