Steelers Undrafted Free Agent ‘Plays Like an Angry Hornet’: Analyst

Shakur Brown

Nic Antaya/Getty Images Shakur Brown of the Michigan State Spartans intercepts a pass intended for Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman of the Northwestern Wildcats on November 28, 2020.

The Pittsburgh Steelers need a new slot cornerback now that Mike Hilton is in Cincinnati, having signed a four-year contract with the Bengals in mid-March. Numerous NFL analysts believe they may have found one in undrafted rookie free agent cornerback Shakur (sha-koor) Brown, who the Steelers enticed to Pittsburgh with a $25,000 signing bonus.

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Shakur Brown ‘One of the Five Best UDFA Signings’: PFF analyst Lance Zierlein is one of those believers, saying Brown “plays the game like an angry hornet with a relentless, edgy play demeanor.” Never mind his “ideal eye balance and field awareness that complements his short-area twitch and anticipatory skills to challenge throws.” In short, Brown has “the competitive spirit and talent to leave an imprint on the game as a starting nickel with CB2 potential.”

Pro Football Focus (PFF) loves Brown too, naming him one of the top 5 undrafted free agent signings, noting that it gave him “the seventh-highest overall grade in the nation last season (82.2) to go with the highest PFF coverage grade in the Big Ten (84.2).”

“Brown has just about everything you want in a corner,” adds PFF’s Zach Tantillo, “from outstanding ball-tracking skills to confidence in coverage. You don’t need much tape on Brown to know you want to go to battle with him. He’s a versatile and feisty corner,” one who PFF projected as a third-round pick, just like Ryan Wilson of CBS, who says he had a third-round grade on Brown.

Why Did Shakur Brown Go Undrafted?

Entering the 2021 NFL Draft, Brown was seen as Michigan State’s best chance to continue an eight-decade-long streak of having at least one player selected in the draft, a streak that came to an end on Saturday.

Teams may have been scared off by his mostly below-average measurables, which are illustrated by his Relative Athletic Score.

In regards to his Michigan State Pro Day, his 40-yard dash time (4.61), 20-split, 10-split, three-cone drill time and broad jump were all “poor” as compared to his peers. His relative lack of size—just under 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds—also fit into the “poor” category.

It’s his “average size and speed” that make slot cornerback a “likely home,” according to the aforementioned Zierlein, where Brown’s “issues with long speed” are minimized and his quick twitch and great instincts can be maximized.

The Steelers Need a New Slot Cornerback

As it happens, the Steelers need to replace Mike Hilton, who, it should be noted was an undrafted free agent himself.

But the rest of the cornerbacks that surround CB1 Joe Haden are probably better suited to playing outside, though recently re-signed Cameron Sutton has demonstrated the versatility to handle either role.

At the moment, the leading contenders to back up Haden and Sutton include: 2019 third-round pick Justin Layne; former undrafted free agent James Pierre; former Chicago Bears draft pick Stephen Denmark, and ex-Los Angeles Chargers starter Trevor Williams, who was added to Pittsburgh’s practice squad prior to January’s postseason game against the Browns and went on to sign a one-year Reserve/Future contract.

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