The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Antoine Brooks becomes the Steelers’ dimeback this season.
Explanation: With the Steelers losing two cornerbacks and lacking proven commodities behind them, the number six defensive back position could, as the team has preferred in the past, fall to a safety rather than a cornerback. Right now, Brooks is arguably the third safety after Sean Davis departed in free agency.
The Steelers have been actively targeting and grooming the hybrid safety-linebacker position for some time now, seeking out that body type in both the draft and free agency with precedents to Brooks like Marcus Allen and Mark Barron, and recently signing another ‘tweener in free agent Miles Killebrew.
Pittsburgh moved Allen to linebacker, though, and even started some games there last year. Killebrew’s role became defined as a special teamer in recent years, and of course Barron is gone — and was also a linebacker.
Brooks was clearly limited by the lack of an offseason, but they did trust him enough to play extensively in one game last season when they had injuries, even though they could have taken other paths. They liked him a lot coming out of the draft, and with the lack of depth throughout the secondary, it’s just a fit.
There’s a reason that Brooks started last season on the practice squad and only got called up late in the year as injuries mounted and they pretty much just needed players to fill up the roster. It’s no mark of progress that he played a bit of ball defensively before Jordan Dangerfield, who has been relegated to special teams in recent years.
He’s going to have to show a good deal of progress to lock up a regular role. The thing to consider with him is that he’s not somebody who’s wet behind the ears. He played plenty of college ball for the Maryland Terrapins, with 237 career tackles over 40 games and four interceptions. He should have been more polished than many rookies, and he wasn’t. I don’t know that we can anticipate him showing meaningful growth to the point that Brooks goes from practice squad guy to the Steelers’ dimeback in one year.