By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Many believed the Pittsburgh Steelers’ most glaring weakness was in the secondary last season, and they finally addressed that in the third round during the NFL Draft Friday night.
The Steelers also finally got a cornerback from Texas, but it wasn’t Aaron Williams, who was taken early in the second round by Buffalo. The Longhorns other corner, Curtis Brown, was taken by the Steelers late in the third.
The Steelers got their cornerback from the University of Texas after all, only on the third round and his name is Curtis Brown and not Aaron Williams.
“We have our talents,” Brown said about his former teammate. “I’m better at some things, just like he’s better than me at some things. Coverage-wise, I’m going to take that and say that I was the best cover corner at Texas. (But) we pushed each other.
“(And) I’m a student, (so) I’m going to learn. I know there will be veterans in there that will teach me different techniques for the zones and things. I’m not worried, (though), because I feel like I learn real well. I’m ready for any challenge that comes my way. I’ll learn it.”
The 6-foot, 185-pounder started 10 games last season for the Longhorns, registering 26 tackles and an interception. He has just two career interceptions, primarily, Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake said, because teams didn’t throw in his direction. He returned one of the picks for a touchdown and had nearly 160 yards in interception return yardage.
“Curtis Brown is a quick cornerback from Texas that probably was their best cover corner,” Lake said. “And they had three corners coming out this year. … Aaron (Williams) is bigger, we thought more of him as a safety and Curtis as a cover corner who also can play the nickel.
“I think he’s got good hands, but teams picked on his teammates more than him. When you look at it, they just didn’t throw a lot his way, and I believe that’s because his cover skills are better. He’s more developed than his teammates, so we believe he can contribute faster for us. Overall, he’ll help us, especially on third down.”
Ike Taylor generally is regarded as the Steelers top cornerback, but his situation is in question due to a current lack of a free-agent period this year. So, there’s a chance that he might not re-sign with the Steelers. Also, with Brown in the fold, that could mean the end for William Gay after four seasons.
“I hope we get (Taylor) signed,” Lake said. “I think Ike probably is one of the more underrated cornerbacks in the league. He does a very good job of duck and run, and that’s a rare talent. If we can somehow find a way to get Ike back and get Curtis involved, that will just strengthen an already strong secondary.”
Lake said that while Brown was a strong special-teams performer at Texas, it’s unlikely that he’ll be involved with the return game for the Steelers. He’ll only play on the coverage units and likely will get the most time in nickel situations.
The NFL Draft concludes Saturday with Rounds 4-7, and the Steelers have one pick in each round.