While I wasn’t necessarily expecting to see the name Curtis Brown on a list of termination transactions made by the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday, it can hardly come as a surprise, and it is a possibility that I have covered earlier this offseason.
The former 2011 third-round draft pick was never able to show to his coaches that he could be trusted on defense. And when he actually played on defense in 2012, he was yanked in favor of a 5’10” former undrafted free agent due to his performance.
As much of a disappointment as he was on defense, his special teams play was above the line for his first two seasons, accounting for the majority of the Steelers’ special teams tackles during those years.
Brown was the gunner on punting units that opposing teams often tried to wedge with two jammers because he would be the first man down the field. His ability as a jammer, however, never matched his ability to attack the returner.
Every offseason seemed to be filled with optimism for Brown’s potential to finally break out and contribute on defense, even inherit a starting spot as Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen had now done ahead of him.
When he got on the field, however, it was always more of the same, as when he gave up multiple touchdowns to a then-rookie Nick Foles in a 2012 preseason game. He then allowed three of four passes in his coverage to be caught for 60 yards, including a touchdown, in the 2013 preseason finale in his only significant playing time.
That meant another season relegated to special teams duty, as rookie safety Shamarko Thomas leapfrogged him on the cornerback depth chart to start the season. For the very few snaps that the Steelers required another cornerback, Antwon Blake, a second-year player who hadn’t been on the team until after final roster cuts, came in.
And Blake has a lot to do with why Brown is no longer on the team. He along with Robert Golden, Thomas, and Markus Wheaton, the Steelers have found their new nucleus on special teams, mostly at the gunner position.
Head coach Mike Tomlin even benched Brown for a stretch of games due to his underperformance on special teams during the season. In his first game back, he was in on three tackles and played quite well, but he didn’t keep it up, and he ultimately tore up his knee, ending his season.
Brown did not have his knee repaired until after the season in January, which put in serious jeopardy his ability to be prepared for this upcoming season anyway. That made it far less surprising that the team parted ways with him, despite the quite meager blip on the cap meter the termination produces.
That pretty much says all that you need to know about the decision behind Brown’s release. The Steelers are ready to move on from their disappointing third-round draft pick. A reunion at this point is highly unlikely, and with that knee, he may not even be in the league with anybody this season.