- Scott Brown, ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter
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PITTSBURGH -- Terrence Brooks said he considers himself the best safety in the 2014 draft, something that runs contrary to the opinion of NFL draft analysts.
The Florida State product can make one claim following the NFL scouting combine: No safety in this year’s draft is faster than Brooks.
Brooks ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds on Tuesday, tops among the safeties in the draft and considerably faster than the times posted by Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor.
The two safeties who are widely considered the best ones in the draft each turned in official 40-yard dash times of 4.56 seconds.
The Steelers will take a safety at some point in the draft, but they may need to be blown away to take Clinton-Dix or Pryor at No. 15 overall. Consider that since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the Steelers have used their first-round pick on a safety only one time.
That happened in 2003, when they traded up to take Troy Polamalu at No. 16.
To say that worked out well for them is an understatement, but even with safety an obvious need, do the Steelers see Clinton-Dix or Pryor as the kind of game-changer who is worth taking in the first half of the draft?
Brooks has emerged as one of the top options if the Steelers wait until later in the draft to grab a safety, and here are more things to like about him aside from his straight-line speed:
Brooks is self-assured but he also plays with a bit of an edge due to arriving at Florida State as less celebrated than a lot of the other recruits in his class.
Brooks played cornerback at Florida State before converting to safety. That should translate into his having the kind of coverage skills that are necessary for a free safety at the next level.
Brooks regularly practiced against elite competition at Florida State, and he said he matched up against Seminoles wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin at times. Look at the drafts under general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin and it’s pretty clear the Steelers value players who come from pedigreed programs and power conferences.
Brooks, who turns 22 next week, played all four years at Florida State and is not among the record number of underclassmen who are in the draft. Colbert said last week at the combine that the maturity level of some of the younger players in the draft is a concern. That presumably wouldn’t be as much of a concern with Brooks.
Brooks isn’t the biggest safety -- he checked in at 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds in Indianapolis -- and he got overshadowed at Florida State on a defense that was loaded with future NFL players. But he may have pushed his way into the second round of the draft with the sheer speed he displayed at the combine, and he wasn’t lacking for confidence before arriving in Indianapolis.
“I have a great feel for knowing where the ball is going. I’m fast and quick and physical, too,” said Brooks, who was fifth on the Seminoles with 56 tackles in 2013 and also intercepted two passes. “Any team that wants to take a chance on me won’t be disappointed.”