Entering the 2020 NFL draft with limited draft capital, the Pittsburgh Steelers may have struck late-round gold with S Antoine Brooks Jr.
Impressions last. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, as elite as the defense was in 2019, one big issue that seemed never-ending was the lack of tackling in a few select areas. And that impression remains, until now with newly acquired S Antoine Brooks Jr.
Round 6 – Pick 198
Led by S Minkah Fitzpatrick, who has undoubtedly justified the Steelers’ “risk” in trading him for a first-round pick from the Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh has one of the better secondaries in the league. A top 5 safety along with a CB duo that is far underrated, their coverage performances ranked them third in NFL defensive passing DVOA in 2019.
Now enter Antoine Brooks Jr, safety out of the University of Maryland, the 198th pick of the 2020 NFL draft, selected by yours indeed, the Pittsburgh Steelers. A menace in the box, his physicality is enticing to what he can add to this defense.
A three-year starter for the Terps, the hybrid S/LB finished his senior year with a career-high 87 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 1 INT, five pass deflections, and one fumble recovery. Brooks stands with a very solid frame at 5’11 and 215 pounds, which compares to those of T.J Ward & Tony Jefferson athletically.
Much more comfortable in the box than when having to cover RBs and TEs downfield, Brooks does an excellent job of consistently being able to come down and making tackles in space. Great pursuit to the ball and an ability to shed blocks, he’s dominant along the line of scrimmage that gave him opportunities to rush off the edge as well. The highest-graded safety against the run by PFF, Brooks has a bag of intangibles that makes him one of the more intriguing prospects of this Steelers class.
Fit With Steelers?
It’s possible that the Steelers could fill Mark Barron’s former role as a subpackage linebacker with Antoine Brooks. Because of this, the Maryland product has a good chance to make the roster. A praiseworthy moment for the Steelers fans? Perhaps, however, Brooks’ ceiling could raise him to battle with one particular safety named Terrell Edmunds.
As the frequent feedback of Edmunds may not be the most appealing from fans, Steelers defensive back coach Teryl Austin made an interesting comment of what to expect with the addition of Brooks:
This necessarily doesn’t set anything in place, but reeling Edmunds in with Brooks as a possible hybrid player as well, does bring a sense of speculation. Edmunds is a former first-round pick entering his third year, where most players make or break their career, so although fans may want the change, the organization could still feel differently.
If not on the field for defense, Brooks should surely find his money on special teams & be a contributor immediately.