Steelers are looking for a young defensive back to step up and replace Mike Hilton in the slot
Updated: Jun 17, 2021
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Steelers senior defensive assistant/secondary coach, Teryl Austin, told the media today that they're using the three-day minicamp to look at players like Antoine Brooks and undrafted rookie free agent Shakur Brown to fill the void at slot cornerback for Mike Hilton, who signed with the Bengals in free agency.
With Steven Nelson also departing this offseason due to being a cap casualty, Cam Sutton will replace him as the starting outside cornerback opposite of Joe Haden. Sutton, however, is also capable of playing in the slot.
“I know Cam can play inside, so right now he’s working outside and we’re letting these other guys work inside to see what we have,” Austin said via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We want to give them as many opportunities to learn and see where they can go. If we don’t feel real comfortable with what we have, we’ll address changes at that time. I know Cam wouldn’t need a lot of reps to move inside and help us.”
Another possible plan for the Steelers is to move Sutton into the slot and have either James Pierre or Justin Layne play on the outside when they go to their sub-packages.
“I like our young guys,” Austin said. “I like James Pierre, I like J-Layne. We have some young guys, a couple free agent guys, I’d like to see compete. Ability-wise, James and J-Layne have the ability to play in this league and be quality players. It just depends how fast and how far they progress in the next four or five weeks.
“I’m comfortable there, but I’m also aware if we have way to better our team and it happens to be an outside guy, I’m more than happy to have him, as well.”
Mike Tomlin spoke with the media today after the second mandatory minicamp practice and he revealed that they have high expectations for Pierre in Year 2. Tomlin says he believes Pierre is ready to advance and take that next step, according to Nick Farabaugh of Steelers Now.
Tomlin also said that Brooks has capabilities of working in the slot and has had some success. Tomlin says that Brooks has done a good job with his opportunities in the slot so far, according to Christopher Carter of DKPittsburghSports.
Haden believes the opportunity is there for the taking for one of the young defensive backs in the secondary.
“I think it comes to guys stepping up and going to have a lot of opportunities for guys like Antoine Brooks, for Justin Layne, for James Pierre,” Haden said. “These dudes are going to have a really, really good opportunity to be able to step in there and make significant jumps in their career."