CB Brandon Dixon Catches Danny Smith’s Eye As Gunner In Victory Over Falcons

It was another game and another deep-roster defensive back stepping up, this time Brandon Dixon, who featured in the game against the Falcons as one of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ primary gunners on the punt coverage unit. He was particularly active in this role, and is the focus of this piece, but he also made some plays on defense as well.

By my count, Dixon, who spent time on the Steelers’ practice squad late last season, was primarily or indirectly responsible for inducing no fewer than four fair catches throughout the game, which is impressive work for a gunner, and a statistic that really gets overlooked.

Why? Because nobody tracks that as a statistic, but I’m of the opinion that they should. Players like Antwon Blake and Shamarko Thomas have had their capabilities as a gunner overlooked because they simply did their job so well that they forced returners to call for a fair catch, rather than allowing a return and then making the tackle.

As of the time of this writing, according to the official game book, Dixon did not record any statistic of any kind in the game. Think about that for a second. He had a significant impact on special teams, but nobody would know that unless they watched the game.

It’s worth noting that, while Dixon may have been a Reserve/Future signing back in January, he is not a novice in the league. He was originally drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Jets, and though he did not make their 53-man roster, he was active for 14 games that season for the Buccaneers.

He even got playing time on defense, recording a total of nine tackles, making an interception and defending a pair of passes, but that is the last that he has seen of a 53-man roster, spending time on the practice squads of the Seahawks, Patriots, Saints, and finally the Steelers in 2015 and 2016.

It would be fair to say that the odds are probably stacked against Dixon making the Steelers’ 53-man roster at cornerback right now, given the depth that they have, but his active presence on special teams today will at least open some doors for him, either simply for a return spot on the practice squad, or potentially even a roster spot with another team, if they think he can make their special teams units better. That is how Blake’s career was jumpstarted.

The second-year cornerback—in his fourth season since being drafted—did look like he can play. On defense, he got a pressure as a blitzer, and he was targeted deep down the field on a fourth-down play at the end of the game, his pass defensed sealing the Steelers’ victory.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Rusted Out

    I don’t know that we’re doing Dixon any favors by comparing him to Shamarko or Blake. Yea I get that we’re going from a special teams perspective, but let’s face it, that is only going to help a fringe player make the roster. I was much more impressed with they way he covered a wideout, made the transition, and tracked the ball downfield with a nice pass defense. Sadly, with the log jam at corner, I don’t think anything Dixon does on special teams is going to matter.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Frankly, he has a better chance of making the team by showing up on special teams than on defense. There are essentially already five cornerback spots locked up with Burns, Cockrell, Gay, Sutton, and Sensabaugh. The sixth guy, if he even dresses, is usually a top special teamer.

  • Dshoff

    First game it was Hilton as the great gunner. This game it was Dixon. Could we keep both?

  • Larry Kraus

    I think watt should be on the loser list but only because he seemed to be handled fairly well. I think that I would add Hilton and Allen to the good list. I hope to see more of both of them.

  • Gautama Om

    I wouldn’t mine giving Chickillo some time against the 1’s the next game. Split it with Watt.

  • walter

    probably not

  • Steve Johnson

    Gay and Cockrell? Yes, they’re locks only because we have a Coaching Staff that couldn’t evaluate talent if they were Coaching a H.S. Squad. Gay and Cockrell is a Joke. The 1st Team Offense for Atlanta made that secondary look like one of the USFL Teams of the past. The middle of the field? Still Wide Open. As usual, the Defense will do fine against marginal QB’s, against the top tier offenses in the NFL? Same ole Mike Tomlin’s Defense.

  • Steve Johnson

    Dump Cockrell and keep him. Why you at it, dump Robert Golden too.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Enjoy the season, Steve. Or, try to anyway.

  • Rusted Out

    So, you’ve got Burns, Cockrell, Gay, Sutton, and Sensabaugh as locks. That would put Dixon at odds with Hilton, who has been a camp darling and playing well as a corner and special teamer. I just don’t see how Dixon makes the team this year unless he starts racking up pick sixes.

  • MP

    Dont need to be a fanboy to enjoy the season. Some of the best Steeler fans I’ve ever met were the most critical!

  • Matthew Marczi

    Yeah, it’s not very likely at all.