It cannot be denied that the departure of Mike Hilton has left a void at the nickel position that needs to be filled this offseason.
Senior Defensive Assistant/Secondary Coach Teryl Austin is cognizant of the need to fill this void, but with a player who has the requisite skill set to be productive at this position.
When interviewed by Pittsburgh Steelers reporter Missi Matthews, Austin detailed the ideal player meant to play this role.
"You basically have to be a corner and a linebacker...it takes a special skill set and a lot of learning in there."
The name Austin mentioned as a possible option at this position was second-year defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr.
Despite playing just 29 defensive snaps last season, Brooks Jr. showed that he was more than capable of playing at the nickel. He finished the season with two total tackles and an overall grade of 64.5, according to Pro football focus. During his time at the University of Maryland, Brooks Jr. played at several positions, including nickel, where he earned Second team All-Big Ten honors in 2018 and 2019.
"That's where he's worked and that's really where you looked at him coming out of Maryland. He was listed as a safety but he basically played a nickel-type position,"
Austin noted. "He was very productive there. That's where he's been working and what he's doing, and he's still got a ways to go, but I think the progress is coming."
Hilton's departure has opened the door for Brooks Jr. to gain a starting spot. Although he will have his work cut out for him during training camp, Brooks Jr. seems to fit the criteria Austin is looking in a slot cornerback.