While Curtis Brown was not utilized on the defensive side of the ball as a rookie back in 2011, he definitely made his presence felt on Pittsburgh’s special teams coverage units. Overall, Brown made 14 special teams tackles, forced two fumbles, and played with such tenacity that Mike Tomlin said the cornerback played like his “hair was on fire.”
Hopes were high that Brown would be able to become a consistent contributor in sub-packages for the Steelers at the cornerback last fall. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh’s former third round pick, his 2012 campaign was a disaster of sorts.
Although he was locked in as Pittsburgh’s number four cornerback behind Ike Taylor, Keenan Lewis, and Allen, Brown still appeared to have a window of opportunity to shine when Taylor and Lewis were hobbled by injuries down the stretch last fall.
In a “must win” game in Week 14, the former Texas Longhorn was absolutely abused by Philip Rivers and the Chargers when he was forced to play extensively. In a humiliating performance, Brown was picked apart by Rivers, Michael Spurlock, and Danario Alexander through the first three quarters. Worst of all, Brown played so poorly in that particular game that he was actually replaced by the then-recently signed Josh Victorian.
With two seasons already under his belt, Brown must find a way to prove to the coaching staff that he can be a reliable option for the team to turn to in sub-package situations. For those of us who watched the San Diego game, Brown looked awful and out of position against their receivers. He looked lost and definitely unprepared to play both in the slot and on the outside. With his piss-poor showings in mind, it made total and complete sense that Pittsburgh’s brass tried to add more competition to the cornerback position this spring.
Not only will Brown have to fight off Victorian for backup reps at cornerback and on special teams, he will also have to contend with the recently re-signed William Gay, DeMarcus Van Dyke, 2013 fifth round pick Terry Hawthorne, and 2013 UDFA Nigel Malone as well.
While Gay is probably going to be handed the nickel back job due to his knowledge of the defense and the fact that he is in his late-20’s, winning the dime back spot will be no easy task for the former Longhorn. Victorian passed Brown up towards the end of last season, plus the other three young backups will not be push-overs for Brown either either. Thus, Brown must prove that he can learn from his mistakes last year and become a non-liability when the Steelers go into sub-package sets on defense.
If Brown cannot make it on the field as a cornerback, he must make sure that he can stick and stay on the roster as the type of electric special teams contributor he was during his rookie campaign. Otherwise, it could be “curtains” in Pittsburgh for the former third round pick when the final week of the preseason ends.
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