The Pittsburgh Steelers took a major step toward strengthening their secondary last season when they acquired S Minkah Fitzpatrick in a trade with the Miami Dolphins. The former first round pick provided an immediate boost to the Steel Curtain defense.
Mike Tomlin and company continued that theme with the 6th round selection of S Antoine Brooks Jr. out of the University of Maryland. Brooks adds another physical presence to this vastly improved unit as the Steelers look to rebound from a disappointing 2019 season. Standing 5 foot 11 and weighing 215 lbs, Brooks is strong and agile with a proficiency for blitzing off the edge. His style of play has drawn comparisons to T.J. Ward and Tony Jefferson.
Brooks was a three-year starter for the Terrapins, being named second team All-Conference in both 2018 and 2019. He finished his senior season with 87 tackles (8.5 for a loss), 1 Int and 1 fumble recovery. An imposing presence on the line, Brooks was ranked as the highest-graded safety against the run by Pro Football Focus and was also an honorable mention for best tackler.
Lacking the speed and range to excel at single coverage, Brooks also needs to improve his discipline to be successful in the NFL. He often prefers to roam the field and freelance rather than remain inside the structured scheme.
The Steelers might view Brooks as the replacement for Mark Barron as a hybrid, sub-package linebacker. There is also the possibility of a competition At safety with former first round pick Terrel Edmunds.
While there might be uncertainty on whether or not Brooks will play defense this year for the Steelers, he is almost assured of contributing immediately on special teams.