Amongst the flurry of signing veterans early on in the week, the Steelers also made some key releases of some other veterans. Levi Brown, Larry Foote, and Curtis Brown were all handed walking papers on Wednesday as the Steelers continue getting within the $133 million salary cap via the Rule of 51 by March 11th. Don’t be surprised if by June, we see Curtis Brown back in a Steelers uniform.
The former Texas Longhorn was entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract this season. Brown was the first in a pair of corners that were selected by the Steelers back in 2011. Brown was average at best, even in his collegiate career (only an honorable mention in All American nominees in 2009 for his collegiate accolades), and many questioned whether he was well suited to be even a #2 corner even though the team already one in Keenan Lewis. A little slow off the snap and difficulty turning his hips around in order to follow a receiver were his largest deficiencies – skills that never really improved over three seasons.
Brown was quiet for much of his time and could be seen in dime packages or as a third safety during his second season. His draft-mate, Cortez Allen, had a very solid season in 2012 and earned himself the #2 spot after Keenan Lewis left due to free agency. Brown quietly slipped into the background as a cornerback in Dick LeBeau’s defense. However, Brown made an impact on special teams when defending kick off returns. If one paid attention enough, you could see Brown’s name in or around every tackle made inside the 30 yard line. He was able to get down the field quickly enough, and, if he was able to get his hands on the ball carrier, brought them down quickly. Brown became injured during the season, and you could tell his presence was missed on special teams. He sat out mid season and then again after Week 12 failing to return to the field for the rest of the season.
Brown was a low risk release for the Steelers. He was not a huge impact player on defense and special teams players are a dime a dozen and found during training camp. He didn’t carry with him a huge salary – only $775,000 for 2014 – but every penny counts when you’re the Steelers and the salary cap. Though Brown is gone and is free to test the Free Agency market in a week, I would not be surprised if we see him again in a Steelers uniform. His special teams play could play an important role as the Steelers try and figure out what they need to do in the cornerback situation – Ike Taylor needs a pay cut or released, Cortez Allen could step up as the #1 back (though not quite ready), William Gay is a nickel corner at best, and the Steelers may not get the corner they need in the draft. They may need a veteran like Brown to fill in for those sub dime packages and contribute on special teams. If Brown does end up returning to the Steelers this season, look for it to happen after June 1st when more cuts happen and the training camp group becomes a clearer picture.
Think Brown could return? Should he?