The Steelers selected University of Texas senior CB Curtis Brown in the third round of the 2011 draft, banking on his improvement as a raw but ultra-athletic defensive back.
They may have gotten even more than they hoped for. His 14 special teams tackles led the Steelers, and if not for a few nagging injuries early in the year, could have pushed for playing time as a cornerback.
While his rookie season was ended when he was placed on injured-reserve with a knee injury, Brown doesn't start something he won't finish. He even said so, taking to Twitter to announce he's back in school this off-season, taking classes at Texas.
I can sympathize with him. Very few people on earth hated school as much as I did. It shows extraordinary discipline for the 23-year-old, though. He's got a bright future as a football player, and taking classes now instead of relaxing and enjoying the decent amount of money he earned as a rookie shows he's committed to succeeding both on and off the field.
That discipline will help him compete for a promotion in 2012. He'll need all the help he can get in what looks to be an exciting battle for multiple roles.
The amount of effort the Steelers have put into getting younger in their secondary will pay off this upcoming season. It's not likely free agent William Gay will be re-signed, and Bryant McFadden will likely be released. That puts Brown against fellow second-year man Cortez Allen and Keenan Lewis for the starting CB position opposite veteran Ike Taylor, and the nickel back.
Brown will likely enter camp fourth on the depth chart, but his play on special teams could give him an advantage with the coaching staff. Perhaps even the self-discipline he's showing by aiming to earn his degree this off-season will be a benefit in his improvement process.