On Wednesday May 4, 2022, the Los Angeles Rams waived a pair of players, including former Steelers safety/cornerback Antoine Brooks Jr., who was drafted by Pittsburgh in the sixth-round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Brooks’ release was not necessarily a surprise, as the Rams selected two cornerbacks and two safeties in last weekend’s draft, making for a suddenly crowded defensive backs room in L.A.
The transaction gives Pittsburgh the opportunity to try to claim Brooks on waivers, if it chooses to do so.
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Antoine Brooks Jr. Was Drafted No. 198 Overall in 2020
Brooks, still only 23, was selected by Mike Tomlin & Co. two years ago, one of two University of Maryland players chosen by Pittsburgh in the 2020 draft, the other being running back Anthony McFarland Jr. He appeared in only four games for the Steelers as a rookie, and was credited with two tackles, having played 29 snaps on defense and 10 more on special teams, per Pro Football Reference.
Yet the team envisioned Brooks playing a larger role in the team’s defense in 2021. In fact, at the beginning of training camp last year he was atop the depth chart at slot cornerback — the “No. 1 slot cornerback,” as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette put it at the time — and on the inside track to replace Mike Hilton at the position (with Hilton having signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency).
Then he suffered what was initially described as a “minor” injury on July 25 and missed the next two preseason games. Shortly after that, he was waived when the team reduced its roster to 80 players. He ultimately received an injury settlement, opening the door for him to join the Rams practice squad in September 2021.
Los Angeles went on to promote Brooks to its active roster on November 9, after he previously appeared in two games as a standard practice squad elevation. All together he played in eight games for the Rams, recording three tackles (two solo) on the road to winning a Super Bowl ring with Los Angeles.
Pittsburgh’s Situation at Cornerback/Safety
As for Pittsburgh’s defensive backfield, things have changed quite a bit in the last calendar year, at least at the cornerback position, where free agent acquisition Levi Wallace is expected to start opposite Ahkello Witherspoon, who was acquired in a trade in September 2021.
Cameron Sutton and recently re-signed ex-Jet Arthur Maulet are the leading contenders to feature in the slot, while James Pierre and former third-round pick Justin Layne figure to provide depth.
At safety, the Steelers have re-signed Terrell Edmunds, Karl Joseph and Miles Killebrew, the latter of whom is back on a two-year deal. Earlier this week, the Steelers announced that they have signed former Falcons & Cowboys safety Damontae Kazee to a one-year contract.
Incidentally, one of the two safeties selected by the Rams in the 2022 NFL Draft is Quentin Lake, son of former Steelers great Carnell Lake, who was a second-round pick of the Steelers in 1989. The Rams drafted Lake No. 211 overall, three spots after the Steelers secured the services of Connor Heyward, the younger brother of Steelers All-Pro defensive lineman Cameron Heyward.
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