NFL Draft

2021 Steelers’ UDFA Player Profiles: Michigan State CB Shakur Brown

With the 2021 NFL Draft in the books, we’re turning our attention to the eight undrafted free agents signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. These will be scouting reports on the players signed we didn’t have any pre-draft profiles on.

#29 Shakur Brown/CB/Michigan State — 5096, 185 lbs.

The Good

– Processes well in zone coverage, good understanding of routes, reads the QB, and able to close on the football
– Takes good angles to the football, making up for lack of length and speed
– Plays bigger and tougher than frame indicates, creates power when coming downhill and can deliver a blow when he’s squared up to the ball carrier/receiver
– Risk-taker with the ball in the area, hungry to make big plays, and threat with the ball in his hands post-interception
– Versatile, played on the outside and slot, has understanding of all three CBs experience, and got plenty of time as a true nickel, making his fit less of a projection
– High-quality interceptions, weren’t a collection of tipped passes and receivers slipping, etc.
– Work and success as a blitzer off the edge

The Bad

– Lacks size and length (30-inch arms) and speed (4.64 40), leading to a poor RAS score (2.72)
– Will have to be full-time slot corner in NFL, lacks long speed or size to match up against bigger, taller receivers despite his aggressiveness and want-to
– Can lose out downfield on vertical routes, lacks foot speed to stay in-phase and can get boxed out on jump balls
– Needs to show consistent aiming point as a tackler and not go too low
– Doesn’t have much starting experience

Bio

– 26 career games, 12 starts for Spartans, declared for draft as a redshirt junior
– Career: 54 tackles (2 TFL), 2 sacks, 9 PDs, 7 INTs
– 186 career INT return yards, eighth-most in school history, one career pick-six and had 107 yards on five INTs in 2020
– First Team All-BigTen in 2020
– Three-star recruit out of HS, chose Michigan State over Colorado State, Kentucky, and Pitt among others (17 total offers)

Tape Breakdown

Shakur Brown signed with the Steelers as a UDFA shortly after the 2021 draft concluded. Brown was someone I believe could’ve been drafted, and getting signing him after the draft is a big get. There’s a reason why he received a large, $25,000 bonus.

On tape, Brown is one of the few corners who has functioned as a true nickel. Not someone who played exclusively on outside and is being projected to the slot. He played both outside corner spots and in the slot. Against Michigan in 2020, he played in sub-packages against 11 personnel.

Brown is best in a zone scheme as the overhang defender. He has a good feel for routes, reads the QB well, and takes good angles to close on the football. He made a lot of plays in zone coverage over slot. Some examples.

 

Brown showed he was a playmaker in 2020, intercepting five passes. I went through and watched them all. I’d consider three to be “high quality” while two were “medium quality.” None of his five picks were low-quality INTs, though he did have a 69-yard pick-six as a freshman that came off a tipped pass. His INTs this past year showed a good processor and someone willing and able to make plays on the football rather than just tackling the catch or playing through the receiver’s hands.

 

Despite being undersized, Brown plays big and aggressive. He shows a solid punch in press-man on the outside and he’ll come up and make an impact as a tackler. Watch him take down the receiver after the catch here.


 

Bit of that Mike Hilton toughness vibe.

On the downside, he has two poor baseline traits: Small and slow. Being 5’9″ and running in the 4.6’s at your Pro Day, it’s pretty clear why he wasn’t drafted. You can see that lack of long speed here.

 

Though he played on the outside in college, he’ll be a full-time slot in the NFL. Just too small and not fast enough to survive on the outside. Play him on the outside in a pinch or preseason game, but if he wants to stay in the league, it’ll be inside.

Overall, this was a nice UDFA signing. The Steelers don’t run as much zone as they used to, but Brown is going to play zone more often in the slot than he would on the outside. So this is a good fit. I like his tenacity against the run and willingness to blitz, two traits that made Hilton very valuable to the Steelers’ defense.

With slot depth thin, Brown has a serious chance of making the 53-man roster. That means proving his worth on special teams and becoming a little bit more consistent and technical of a tackler. But he has a chance to hang around.

Games Watched: (2019) at Illinois, (2020) vs. Iowa, vs. Michigan, vs. Ohio State, INT Cutup

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