Steelers Pluck Ballhawk Golson

After the Baltimore Ravens traded up to take Maxx Williams, the Steelers settled for sticky-fingered Senquez Golson.

The running joke about the Pittsburgh Steelers' second-round draft pick is that Senquez Golson is too short to be a reach.

Go ahead and yuk it up, says Golson, the 5-8 5/8, 176-pounder. He led all the nation's FBS cornerbacks with 10 interceptions last season while ballhawking the secondary for Ole Miss.

Golson can go get the ball. Even the Boston Red Sox tried to sign him to a $1.1 million contract to play center field in their organization as Golson was coming out of Pascagoula (Miss.) High School in 2011.

But Golson turned the Red Sox down, just like he turned down Alabama and Florida State to stay home and play both baseball and football at Ole Miss. Golson told reporters at the Combine that playing center field helps him track footballs in the secondary.

"It does make a difference, just being able to adjust to the ball in the air is second nature to me. It's simple," he said.

Golson's favorite interceptions last season came against 6-6 tight end O.J. Howard that sealed an upset win over Alabama and another that resulted in a 59-yard return for a touchdown against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Golson's baseball career ended soon and unceremoniously, though. He hit .204 as a freshman and was cut the following season.

"One of my biggest issues was the curveball," Golson said with a laugh during a conference call with Pittsburgh reporters Friday night.

What's his "curveball" in football?

"My technique," he said. "If I could go with anything that I need to work on, it's just my mechanics and my technique."

That will be the job of Carnell Lake, the Steelers' defensive backs coach.

"Senquez has exceptional ball skills," said Lake. "He did an outstanding job tracking the football. Anytime you can get a guy like that, who can pluck the ball out of the air, he has real value in the league.

"The league is a pass-oriented league. It's been transitioning for a while. It requires multiple personnel in the secondary on the field, a lot more personnel on the field than usual. A lot of times five defensive backs, sometimes six, and the more defensive backs you have on the field that can defend the pass, especially take the ball away, it's really going to helps us a lot."

Golson made four starts as a freshman at Ole Miss in 2011, and in four seasons intercepted 16 passes, or four more than Ike Taylor did with the Steelers in 12 NFL seasons.

Of course, Taylor had more than four inches on the newest Steelers cornerback.

"He's going to be challenged, no doubt about that," Lake said of Golson. "If you are 6-2, they are still going to throw at you. If you are 5-8 they are still going to throw at you. Senquez is going to have to come in and he's going to have to prove that he can play in this league. We believe he can."

According to NFL.com, Golson allowed four touchdowns in college, and three of those were to wide receivers 6-4 or taller. Golson says he can cover tall receivers.

"No doubt about it," he said. "I've guarded Mike Evans before. I went against all those receivers at Missouri. You just pull up the film from my four years and I guarded most of the guys that a lot of people have drafted in the first round."

Golson has an infectious personality, similar to that of another Steelers cornerback who came out of Mississippi, Deshea Townsend, a 5-10, 183-pounder who won two Super Bowl rings in his 11-year career.

"He's very likeable," Lake said of Golson. "I think once you get him in the building you will really come to like him quickly. He's very personable, very approachable, speaks well, is a very thoughtful young man, and I think that he'll get along with his teammates here."

Golson said he knows of Townsend, that "he was a pretty good corner for Pittsburgh." But Golson's favorite Mississippi football player is Terrell Buckley, who also came out of Pascagoula.

Of course, Mississippi is a state that's turned out Jerry Rice, Walter Payton and Brett Favre, among a long list that now includes Senquez Golson.

"People call us country," Golson said of his home state's proud tradition. "We're some country boys, so we know how to put in the work."


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