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 Jr. solidified his grip on the slot defender role in the Hall of Fame game.
Explanation: The Steelers had two primary defenders in the slot against the Dallas Cowboys. Brooks played well and showed up in a variety of arenas. Arthur Maulet’s performance was more shaky, and included a big gain on a crosser on which he fell behind. Thus far, there haven’t been any other obvious contenders.
There was never anybody else. The Steelers have a very specific skill set they are looking for out of the slot, and Brooks is basically the only person in the secondary who could fit the bill. He can be physical against the run and aggressive as a blitzer.
What he really needed to show was how he could hold up in coverage, and he seemed to do that at a competent level. He certainly didn’t give up any big plays. He was also active and around the ball, alert enough to recover a loose ball following a forced fumble.
Bottom line, he was the leader in the clubhouse before the game, and only strengthened his case when he came out. I don’t think you need more than that to qualify this statement as true. He would be their starter if the season started today without a doubt.
It’s still too early to be talking about control of a position at which there is no incumbent. Tomlin only said that Brooks would start the Hall of Fame game, and that is partly because he understands that there’s a lot more to see.
Maulet is a veteran with several hundred professional snaps on film, even if he is new to the team. There’s a lot more that we know about him, accordingly, and so less that we have to see. He could start the second and third preseason games.
Brooks would be the frontrunner right now, but that can change on a weekly basis. A guy like Tre Norwood or Shakur Brown could emerge yet.