You can call rookie DB Antoine Brooks a professional football player. Mike Tomlin? He calls him Young Pup. Talking to reporters via Zoom yesterday, Brooks revealed the nickname Tomlin’s given him.
“Mike Tomlin, great coach,” he said via video released by the team. “I accept everything he says. Probably the funniest thing he says to me, he calls me ‘Young Pup.’ That’s my nickname from him. And I like it. I’m just a young dog growing and I will soon be that grown dog that he wanted me to be.”
A nickname that I hope is real, by the way, after finding out they do not, in fact, call Terrell Edmunds “old-fashioned.”
Brooks saw his first defensive snaps in last Sunday’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Working in nickel and dime packages, he logged 28 snaps, all coming on the defensive side of the football. He finished the day with just two tackles but held his own, not making an obvious mental mistakes or negative plays.
That role is likely to go away this weekend versus Jacksonville. Mike Hilton is slated to return after missing a month of action. That bumps Brooks out of the team’s dime defense. But the experience he earned this past week is valuable going forward. Not only for his personal growth but earning confidence of the coaching staff. If injuries or COVID-related issues occur again, Brooks won’t be brand new to playing on Sundays.
Tomlin’s also reminded Brooks and the team of the work that’s left to be done. Even for a 9-0 Steelers’ squad all but guaranteed to return to the playoffs.
“My favorite [Tomlin saying is] we’re not here getting paid by the hour. Make sure you do everything. For me, I kinda think when he said that…especially with COVID, you only have a certain amount of time to be out here to workout.”
Even if there aren’t any openings for playing time the rest of the season, things could look a lot different next year. Hilton and Cam Sutton are scheduled to be free agents. Hilton will cash in big time while Sutton’s value has shot up the past two years. If both are gone, Brooks could have a role as a nickel corner/third safety, similar to the role he occupied against the Bengals. The reps he’s received now will go a long way in helping him come next summer and fall.