From the outside, they’re the forgotten men in the Steelers’ quest to improve their secondary.
Caught in the middle between established veteran and high-pedigree rookie, B.W. Webb and Kevin Fogg might be Nos. 6 and 7 among the seven cornerbacks on the Steelers training camp roster when it comes to headlines. But don’t be surprised come final cuts in September that one and/or the other finds his way onto an opening day 53-man.
“There’s always room for improvement and things to do better at; I’m still trying to get a grasp of some things,” Webb said last week in the locker room following a minicamp workout. “But I think I’m doing a good job of showing them that I’m ready to get out on the field and start playing.”
Everyone knows projected starters William Gay and Cortez Allen, who have a combined 13 seasons with the Steelers. Fans also are keenly aware of rookies Senquez Golson and Doran Grant, who were each drafted within the first four rounds of the draft last month.
Antwon Blake, after late last season showing he could play – even excel – in the NFL, likewise is a known quantity of sorts.
Where does that leave Webb and Fogg?
In an uphill battle to win a roster spot? Perhaps. But each also has an intriguing case to make.
Webb was a fourth-round draft pick just 26 months ago. He played 195 snaps over 15 games for the Cowboys in 2013 (all snap info courtesy Pro Football Focus), and he appeared in 11 games for the Steelers last season (albeit almost exclusively on special teams).
But with the retirement of Ike Taylor and the free agency departure of Brice McCain, combined with the fact rookies are still just a few weeks into learning the playbook and a minor minicamp injury to Allen, Webb found himself on the field with the “1s” with frequency during organized team activities and minicamp.
“I just trying to be a better me so we can win the Super Bowl,” Webb said. “Anything that I can do better, anything that I can help with to put us in the right spot to get to that big game, man.”
For Webb, that’s meant a role in special teams. He said he’s been part of both punt and kickoff coverage and return teams. Standing out for special teams coach Danny Smith certainly wouldn’t hurt his cause.
Webb made a name for himself at an FCS school (William & Mary), intercepting three passes in his collegiate debut in an upset over Virginia in 2009. He also turned some heads at the 2013 combine and Senior Bowl.
But he struggled during his rookie season and was cut late during the ensuing training camp. The Steelers scooped him up via waivers and kept him on the 53-man roster all season.
Fogg has yet to earn anything more than a practice-squad NFL check. Another small-school product (Liberty), he went undrafted last year. After spending time in the Dolphins’ training camp, he eventually was signed to the Steelers’ practice squad in December (48 hours after Taylor’s final play with the team).
But after the season ended he was quickly signed to a reserve/future contract, and he appeared far from out of place in defensive snaps this spring.
“I’m just blessed just to be here; God has opened up my eyes a little bit of all that He’s given me, so it’s been good to be able to compete and have fun and enjoy the process,” Fogg said. “Sometimes going into your first *true* offseason it can be a little hesitant at first, but it’s been good because I was with (the Steelers) for the last four weeks of the season just to get used to the feel for everybody and click with people for the most part. But it’s fun; I feel good.”
Fogg, who was an FCS All-American returner as a senior in college, said he hasn’t taken any reps at nickel DB this spring. But he has been on the outside covering receivers – and he has repeatedly made plays and raised some eyebrows among teammates, coaches and observers on the South Side over the past month.
A spiritual man, Fogg is doing his best to take his quest to earn an NFL roster spot in stride.
“I felt like when I went through the process of training camp last year with the Dolphins that I got a little too ahead of myself and was trying to, you know, play the numbers game (in regard to available roster spots),” Fogg said. “For a player that’s young and a rookie to play the numbers game, it plays with your head and it messes you up mentally.
“So it’s just been good for me to take one day at a time here, enjoy the process and just give it my best each and every day, and just do what I have to do right now – worry about tomorrow when the time arises, and just continue to have that mindset each and every day… All I can do is just do my best and God will take care of the rest.”
A lot can happen between now and the start of the regular season: Injuries. A new player brought in at the position (seven cornerbacks is not very many for a 90-man roster). Play from the rookies that either far exceeds or is far inferior to what is expected. The point being, it’s too early to tell how the Steelers roster will shake out at cornerback.
But for inspiration on how a so-called longshot can make an impact at the position for the Steelers, Webb and Fogg can look no further than their own meeting room. Blake went undrafted from a smallish school (UTEP), got cut late in his second training camp, underwent a position change from safety, made his initial mark on special teams… and by the end of last season was a key subpackage cog in the Steelers’ secondary.