Pittsburgh Steelers: Terrence Brooks

More post-combine safety chatter

February, 26, 2014
PITTSBURGH -- Post-combine mock drafts by CBS Sports' draft analysts Dane Brugler and Rob Rang have the Pittsburgh Steelers taking a safety with their first pick -- albeit different ones.

Brugler has the Steelers selecting Louisville's Calvin Pryor, and Rang has them taking Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at No. 15 overall.

Brugler has the Steelers picking Pryor -- even with Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans still on his board. Rang has Evans going a couple of picks before the Steelers in the first round.

Neither Pryor nor Clinton-Dix ran great in the 40-yard dash -- each posted official times of 4.58 seconds Tuesday in Indianapolis -- but of course, that is only one component of the combine. I'm not sure the Steelers will think either is worth taking so high in the draft, but Clinton-Dix appears to be a better fit for them if they do use their first-round selection on a safety.

Clinton-Dix is the more prototypical free safety, and the Steelers have more of a need there with Ryan Clark unlikely to return to Pittsburgh and 2013 fourth-round pick Shamarko Thomas more suited to eventually succeed Troy Polamalu at strong safety.

If the Steelers opt to take a safety later in the draft, Florida State's Terrence Brooks (more on Brooks) and Southern Cal's Dion Bailey are two players that may interest them.

Bailey has a connection to the Steelers as defensive backs coach Carnell Lake tried recruit him when the latter coached at UCLA.

“Me and him have a very strong relationship,” Bailey said of Lake. “Then he was at (UCLA) pro day last year. He led the (defensive backs) drills so I talked to him for about an hour and he was giving me advice about what to expect making the transition (to safety) and what I needed to do.”

Indeed, Bailey played outside linebacker at USC for two seasons before making the transition to safety.

He only ran a 4.66 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, a time he will try to improve on next month at USC's pro day, but he is an intriguing mid-round prospect for a couple of reasons.

In college, Bailey was productive -- he recorded 222 tackles and intercepted 11 passes in three seasons -- and he played all over the field.

The 6-foot, 202-pounder should have some upside as a safety since he only played the position one year in college, and Bailey compared himself to another USC product whose skill set defies scheme.

“I feel like my game resembles Troy Polamalu's game very well,” Bailey said. “He went through the same transition in college as me, playing linebacker his first couple years and then playing safety He transitioned to the NFL really well. I'm hoping I have the same career.”

Brooks a safe(ty) option for Steelers?

February, 25, 2014
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.

[+] EnlargeTerrence Brooks
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhFlorida State defensive back Terrence Brooks turned heads at the combine when he ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash.
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.”

Countdown to combine: Steelers

February, 17, 2014
PITTSBURGH -- With the NFL scouting combine starting Feb. 22, we review positions of need and who the Steelers might be looking at during the combine.

Position of need: Safety

Ryan Clark, the starter at free safety since 2006, is unlikely to be re-signed. Strong safety Troy Polamalu is on the back stretch of his career. The Steelers need to get younger on the back end of their defense, and finding a long-term starter at free safety may be one of their top priorities in the 2014 NFL draft. Look for the Steelers to select at least one safety a year after they traded a third-round pick so they could take Shamarko Thomas, the likely successor to Polamalu, in the fourth round of the 2013 draft.

Three players the Steelers might be targeting

Terrence Brooks, Florida State: Brooks, overshadowed a bit on a defense that led the nation in scoring (12.8 points allowed per game), could be an option for the Steelers if they don’t use their first two picks on a safety. They get another look at the former Seminole in Indianapolis after watching him at the Senior Bowl. The 5-11, 197-pound Brooks doesn’t have great size but he is strong in pass coverage, having converted from cornerback to safety after his sophomore season at Florida State. One intangible the Steelers may like about Brooks: He was not among the most heavily recruited players in his class, and he used that to drive him and play as a true freshman in Tallahassee.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama: The Steelers will take a long look at the player who goes into the combine as the best safety prospect in the draft. Clinton-Dix coverage skills make him a good fit for a team that has more of a need at free safety, but the Steelers have only drafted one safety in the first-round of the draft since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Of course that safety turned out to be the transcendent Polamalu in 2003. The more apt comparison when it comes to Clinton-Dix may be Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas, the 14th overall pick of the 2010 draft. If the Steelers think Clinton-Dix can develop into a player of Thomas’ ilk then they have to seriously consider taking him at No. 15.

Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois: Ward is another player the Steelers will get a chance to evaluate after seeing him at the Senior Bowl. Ward shined in Mobile, Ala., last month answering questions about how he would fare against better competition. Ward’s showing at the Senior Bowl built on a senior season in which he intercepted seven passes and recorded 95 tackles. The 5-11, 191-pounder isn’t the biggest guy so it is imperative he runs well at the Combine. Ward has been widely projected as a second- or third-day pick so he may be an option for the Steelers if they don’t take a safety in the first round. Ward is one of the best prospects in a safety class that is not considered deep. "He’s not a big safety, but he fits today's NFL with his coverage ability and he makes so many impact plays," ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "He could go second or third round, but he's going to be a fast riser."