PITTSBURGH — Desmond King is ready for the Steelers to give him the green light. The newest cornerback on the team’s active roster sat out last week, with the team citing a lack of playbook knowledge as the reason he did not play. A few weeks into that program, King feels comfortable enough to play a game if they need him to do that tomorrow.
“It’s just continuously and progressively learning,” King said. “Everybody is out there helping me, and I just need to find something. Whenever I’m out there practicing, I practice the right way to make myself better.”
However, he is still unsure if he will get a helmet this week. But his preparation and performance in practice will dictate that for the Steelers. But if they ask Desmond King to suit up on Monday, the upstart cornerback is ready.
“It’s not my decision but hopefully some soon,” he said. “I’m ready to go. I’m all in. If they tell me, I’m full go.”
Steelers starting kickoff returner Anthony McFarland missed practice on Thursday with a knee injury. That could provide a path to playing time for King, who has 57 career kickoff returns and a 22.5 yards per return average. King is an exceptional return man, which could be his key to playing against Cleveland.
Should he play, the Steelers would want the boost in run defense and as a blitzer. That is where King makes his name, despite Houston not using him in that area much last year. Chandon Sullivan and Patrick Peterson man the slot right now, but Pittsburgh could be due for a shakeup in the secondary following the team’s first game against the 49ers. The communication on the back end is something the team is looking to reset following multiple coverage busts in the secondary.
“When you make a communication error in the back end, it results in a big play, and we saw a few of those happen last week,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “So, I think it’s important that we do get that ironed out. That’s something that we’ve talked about from day one. It’s always been an emphasis, whether you have a new group or an old group because when you get in the stadiums and you’re working in that back seven, any mistake cuts a guy free, and most times when guys get cut free in this League, they find the open guy. That was what happened last week. So we’ve got to do better at that.”
King, as a new face, could help the secondary. It remains to be seen just how much the team trust him right now, or if they would rather lean on the experienced players like Sullivan.