Imagine what the Steelers would look like with a brand new 6-5, 217 pound wide receiver – 24 years old – who has “vacuum-like hands,” as coach Mike Tomlin put it.
Imagine Danario Alexander suddenly signed off the street for minimum-wage, thrust into the starting lineup three weeks later, and going on a 5-game binge with 30 receptions for 494 yards (16.5 avg.) and 5 touchdowns.
That would solve that playmaker problem going on in Pittsburgh.
That would at least solve the numbers problem at a position that goes four deep.
In fact, it would also solve next April’s draft puzzle of who to pair with Antonio Brown for the next five years as Ben Roethlisberger wraps up what could, should be a Hall of Fame career.
You remember Alexander from Sunday’s game. He was the guy who put that double move on Curtis Brown, survived Curtis Brown’s flailing hold, and beat Curtis Brown by about 15 yards to catch a 39-yard touchdown pass for a 10-0 Chargers lead.
When Alexander was in the end zone you didn’t see Curtis Brown in the picture because Alexander went over to the goal post and spiked the ball over the crossbar with a thunder that echoed throughout silent Heinz Field.
As the goal post rocked from the jam, the ball – and I haven’t been able to verify this – but I believe the ball rocketed over the goal post and hit a small child in the face five rows up the bleachers.
I couldn’t verify it because I was looking for Curtis Brown and found him over on the sideline talking to the street-clothed Ike Taylor.
Taylor majors in forgetting mistakes. He usually bounces back and so has learned that forgetting mistakes is so important for cornerbacks.
But more important is being able to cover someone. Curtis Brown listened intently to Taylor, nodded in affirmation, and then went out and got scorched some more by Alexander.
Now, we had heard of Alexander. Even those who didn’t know about his 113 catches for a nation-leading 1,781 yards as a senior at Missouri were reminded of him a few days before the game as Tomlin said, “When he came out in the draft, I thought, unquestionably, that he had the nicest hands at the Senior Bowl.”
So if I have this straight, you loved a 6-5 guy with great hands at a position you needed, but didn’t sign him because –
Well, I assume it had to do with his five knee surgeries and the lifetime bill that comes with signing injury-plagued guys who are never picked up by another team. But I couldn’t verify that either, because, frankly, I came here to talk about Curtis Brown. He’s the guy who allowed Alexander to catch an In on third-and-long by breaking on what Curtis Brown believed to be an Out.
Curtis Brown looked completely lost out there, and the Chargers picked on him for two more third-down conversions during “The Drive” to start the second half, and that’s the last we saw of Curtis Brown.
Now, I keep using both of his names because Brown is too forgettable and he’s an important part of the story here. And anyway, Curtis Brown sounds almost like Harvey Clayton when it rolls off the tongue. But he’s important to this story because Curtis Brown is the exact guy I thought of when Brett Keisel answered my question after the game.
Amidst a mob of reporters, I asked Keisel this question:
Did you sense a lack of emotion in the first half?
Keisel paused, then sighed, then said, “I don’t know.”
After another pause, Keisel said, “It didn’t feel good out there, for one way or another. I was saying before, guys gotta step in and play. You know. You’ve got to be ready to go regardless of your opponent, regardless of their record. You’ve got to be ready to go. This is a profession. You’ve got to be ready to play when it’s time to play.”
I thought right away of Curtis Brown because he was clearly the one guy on the team who was not ready to play. But I didn’t need to write about it because I felt that the young, shy guy with the confidence issues did not need another rip job to read when he woke up Monday.
Anyway, my assignment was the one bright spot of the day, the superb physical showing and underrated return of Roethlisberger from serious injury. But those Curt Brown rip jobs were never written. By anyone. Instead, we’ve been tortured with a week of amateur psychoanalysis of a team that supposedly wasn’t ready to play because of what Keisel had said – not just to me, but obviously to someone else.
The team wasn’t ready.
But, couldn’t all of this hubbub really be about Curtis Brown? That Keisel didn’t want to pick on Curtis Brown by name? Both names?
In my mind, it is. Philip Rivers was magnificent in picking on Brown, primarily, but later on Josh Victorian, the 5-9 replacement corner who was appearing in his very first NFL game.
Alexander should’ve dunked on him, too, but he spared the city’s children, and its wobbly goalposts, another spanking and just took the ball he snared easily into the end zone like he’d been there before.
He had, of course, and so will others who venture to play against Curtis Brown and Co. with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Is there a way out?
Not in the playoffs, where veteran, quick-armed QBs are the norm and not the exception. It’s obvious the Steelers have no option but to coach up Brown, Victorian, and DeMarcus Van Dyke and hope for the best – which would be the return of Ike Taylor.
“It’s going really well,” Taylor said the other day about his fractured ankle. “The process is going really fast.”
That’s all Taylor knew about his potential recovery. He hopes and he prays, just as he does for his replacements.
But this week, Curtis Brown – benched last week – could actually be promoted to the No. 2 job opposite No. 1 Keenan Lewis due to the injury to Cortez Allen. Someone will have to take Allen’s place, and someone else will be the No. 3. Can the guys who were burned so badly last week pick up their game? With even more playing time that anyone wants to see?
“Yeah,” said Taylor. “What I tell my corners all the time is you don’t want those kind of games, but they come sooner than later. So now all people want to see is how you respond to those games and you have an opportunity this week to respond to what happened last week.”
That would be more comforting if Curtis Brown and Co. didn’t look so incredibly confused last week.
And it would be more comforting to really believe last week’s loss was merely the result of some type of overall team malaise and unprofessionalism, instead of those kid corners who didn’t have a clue.