2021 Offseason Questions: Will Antoine Brooks Be Steelers’ Slot Defender?

Antoine Brooks

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books. It ended in spectacular fashion — though the wrong kind of spectacular — in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense. Multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. Right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quo with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?

These are the sorts of questions we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there are always questions to ask, though there is rarely a concrete answer. This is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.

Question: Will Antoine Brooks be the Steelers’ primary slot defender this season?

Truth be told, training camp is setting up to be an interesting one for the Steelers this year—which makes it all the more frustrating that we don’t quite know how much of it we’ll get to see. One of the most intriguing storylines will be the moving parts in the secondary as they figure out what to do in the slot.

So far through OTAs and minicamp, we’ve heard of two young second-year defensive backs who stood out to some degree, those being cornerback James Pierre and safety Antoine Brooks. Both are in competition for the fifth cornerback role, but Brooks, if he were win the job, would play in the slot.

Multiple reporters have suggested that Brooks is first in line for the job, implying that he was running with the first-team unit a lot. Teryl Austin did say that their goal was the leave Cameron Sutton on the outside so that they can evaluate their options on the inside.

If they think Brooks is sufficient, will that be all it takes to get them to pull the trigger and have him in the slot? Or, once they get into the preseason, will they be more flexible in viewing their options, and possibly decide that Pierre on the outside and Sutton on the inside is their best nickel package? Or might somebody else emerge and enter the conversation?

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