Outside of the timing of it, the decision made on Wednesday by the Pittsburgh Steelers to release cornerback Curtis Brown wasn’t a surprising one, but now that he is indeed gone, the 2011 draft class is now down to four remaining members.
Defensive end Cameron Heyward, cornerback Cortez Allen and tackle Marcus Gilbert have started and played extensively since being drafted while linebacker Chris Carter has been nothing more than a bit player and special teams contributor with no guarantee he makes the final 53 man roster this year.
Missing with third round draft picks happens quite a bit around the league and that’s exactly what Brown was, a miss. While he contributed quite a bit on special teams during his time in Pittsburgh, he never seemed to be able to handle the mental aspects of the game that come with playing the cornerback position in the NFL.
As far as Heyward, Allen and Gilbert go, the jury is still out on two of them. Heyward showed last season that he should be considered a force at defensive end for the Steelers for several years to come, while Allen and Gilbert, despite both having some bright spots during their first three years in the league, still have to show they can be consistent players.
The addition of Mike Munchak as the new Steelers offensive line coach this offseason could be exactly what Gilbert needs, while the biggest obstacle for Allen moving forward might very well be him staying completely healthy and receiving more playing time.
As far as Carter goes, any improvement would be spectacular, but with Jarvis Jones, Jason Worilds, and potentially even LaMarr Woodley, all ahead of him on the depth chart, the hope is that we don’t have to see him on the field other than playing special teams in 2014, if indeed he makes the roster.
The Steelers cut guard Keith Williams, their 2011 sixth-round draft pick, after his initial training camp and their seventh-round pick that year, running back Baron Batch, had his NFL career flame extinguished by the Steelers prior to the start of last season.
It’s hard to get upset about Williams and Batch not working out, but with Brown quickly becoming a distant memory and Carter currently on the edge of becoming one, the Steelers need Heyward, Allen and Gilbert all to excel in order to make the draft class of 2011 a successful one.