Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: DB Antoine Brooks Jr.
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The Steelers have announced that Antoine Brooks Jr. would start the Hall of Fame game as the slot defender, an indication that he is getting first crack at taking over the position.
While we heard reports from OTAs and minicamp that second-year safety Antoine Brooks Jr. was spending his time in the spring lining up in the slot, it was nice to have that confirmed once we got into training camp. We have already seen him—through reporters’ eyes—lining up there on the field. Head coach Mike Tomlin wasted no time in saying that he was going to start there in the Hall of Fame game, as well.
A sixth-round pick out of Maryland last year, Brooks is a player whom the Steeler, and Tomlin personally, have scouted for years. His son was teammates with him on the Terrapins, and offensive coordinator Matt Canada even coached him in 2018, so they have had extensive background knowledge on him for years.
While they might know everything there is to know about his character, however, at the end of the day, being a great guy doesn’t earn you a starting job. They want to see if they have what it takes to be their starting slot defender on a full-time basis, which is a 700-snap-a-year job, or thereabouts.
The Steelers are searching for a replacement for Mike Hilton, a versatile slot defender who commanded the position for the past four years. Physically, Brooks presents the most similar cut, and it certainly seems they are hoping that they get it right the first time and that he shows himself to be what they’re looking for.
If he doesn’t quite cut it, ready in time for his second season to be a full-time starter, then Arthur Maulet, a veteran with experience, is another option. Failing that, the most likely alternative might be sliding Cameron Sutton inside and playing James Pierre outside, something a lot of people seem to prefer.