On Saturday, Pittsburgh Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake received two new pupils during the 2013 NFL draft in the form of safety Shamarko Thomas and cornerback Terry Hawthorne. Hawthorne, who the Steelers selected in the fifth round, will now compete for a roster spot and presumably push cornerback Curtis Brown, the Steelers third round pick in 2011.
Lake was asked during his press conference where Brown fits right now in his plans after the selection of Hawthorne on Saturday.
“We’re hoping that Curtis can turn the corner right now,” said Lake, who is entering his third year coaching the Steelers defensive backs. “I have a lot of hope for Curtis. I think he has all the physical tools as well. Curtis’ opportunities, for me at least in my own opinion, is to come on strong this year and I think he can do that.”
Lake was then asked if the biggest issue with Brown right now is him staying healthy and on the field
“He’s been banged up,” said Lake. “In training camp he came in and he was banged up early and so I didn’t get a chance to work with him in the offseason my first year and then when he got to training camp he was really banged up and missed a lot of time. So I’m hoping really that this training camp will be an opportunity for him to really grow.”
In his first two years with the Steelers, Brown has only played 84 defensive snaps with all of those coming last year mostly in nickel and dime situations. In the Week 14 game against the San Diego Chargers, Brown allowed six receptions on six targets for 84 yards and double-move touchdown. He played so poorly that he was eventually yanked from the blowout game late in favor of the newly signed Josh Victorian.
While Brown hasn\’t looked good so far on the defensive side of the ball for the Steelers, he has been excellent on special teams, and even led the team in tackles last season on those units. Unfortunately, with only 53 roster spots available, being a special teams ace might not be enough for Brown to make the roster should he not turn the proverbial corner.
Hawthorne, like Brown, is regarded by Lake as a player that doesn\’t mind tackling. Another plus for the Illinois product is that he might be put into the mix to battle for the return job. Should he become an asset on special teams, and have a solid training camp on the defensive side of the ball, he could wind up making Brown a little more nervous than he probably is right now.
How will this play out? I have a feeling that Lake was just trying to send a message to Brown on Saturday through the media. While I certainly could wind up being wrong, I don\’t think that the Steelers are ready to give up on Brown just yet, baring of course him totally falling on his face once again in the preseason. In the end, I think his play on special teams will at least afford him a roster spot in 2013 with the hopes that he might still become the heir apparent to veteran cornerback Ike Taylor.