5 Steelers who will play surprisingly well during 2021 season

Chukwuma Okorafor #76 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Chukwuma Okorafor #76 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /
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Antoine Brooks Jr. #25 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

Steelers Antoine Brooks

One of the most surprising stories of the offseason is the Steelers’ expectations of second-year defensive back Antoine Brooks. The rumors flew early that he would be in contention for the starting nickel job (something that was later confirmed on the team’s initial depth chart release). Even better, Brooks reportable slimmed down by about 10-15 pounds, coming into camp at a weight of around 205 lbs. instead of the 220 lbs. that he entered the league at.

That weight loss is bigger than it may seem to be. When Brooks was drafted, many expected an eventual shift to linebacker given his hard-hitting, run-stopping nature as a defensive back. With that weight loss though, he looks like a far better fit for the slot role in terms of run defense. Former slot corner Mike Hilton was praised for his ability to stop the run, so having a more run-stopping capable corner on the roster gives this secondary some versatility.

Even if Brooks doesn’t start every snap at slot cornerback (James Pierre has also made some leaps and Cameron Sutton is an experienced slot corner in his own right) he should still be a factor on this defense. He can see time in the slot during run looks and see some snaps in dime defense as the additional defensive back. He is willing to transform himself to gain a role with the Steelers, so this new look could pay dividends for him and the team.