Going into this year’s NFL draft, many believed the Pittsburgh Steelers would address the secondary in the first round. That, however, did not hold true.
The Steelers didn’t draft for the secondary until the the fifth round where they took Arizona corner Shaq Richardson.
Richardson started all 13 games for Arizona in 2013 and was second on the team when it came to interceptions (3). At 6-foot and 194 pounds he looks lean, but possesses good quickness. He most likely won’t see a lot of time, if any, this season but it doesn’t mean he won’t be utilized in future seasons.
With the departure of veteran safety Ryan Clark, the uncertainty of how secondary players like Shamarko Thomas will play this season and aging players like Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Will Allen and William Gay, there are plenty of factors that can leave one wondering just how solid this secondary unit can be.
“So far so good,” said Taylor, last week during Steelers’ mini-camp, in regard to Richardson’s play. “Him being constant, him wanting to be better, him wanting to learn, so far he’s been looking real good as a rookie. Time will tell if he can be consistent and if it will transfer from practice to on the field. For him, it’s just going to be consistency.”
Taylor took a major pay cut to stay with the Steelers and while he’s still viewed as their top corner, he’s not getting any younger. Providing guidance to a rookie like Richardson is an important factor to consistency in a newcomer.
“Any challenges I come across, I’ll ask any of our vets and they’ll help us out,” Richardson said. “Any challenges they see me come across, they’ll put it upon themselves to help me out as well. They help me out a lot actually.
Head coach Mike Tomlin described OTAs and mini-camp as “like football, but not actual football.” Valid point. It’s “football in shorts” and while Taylor’s description of Richardson as so far, so good, during these camps is a start, the real test will come in the end of July when things pickup at training camp.
Taking Taylor’s word for it, Richardson’s off to a solid start. He’ll have to improve each and every day, but the secondary is getting up there. The next wave of young safeties and corners are not too far from replacing these veterans.