PITTSBURGH -- One of the bright spots from the Seattle Seahawks' overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was the impressive debut of rookie cornerback Tre Brown, who looks like a potential answer at a position that's been in flux.
The key word there is potential. Because as much as Brown flashed Sunday night at Heinz Field, it was a sample size of less than a full game. But the Seahawks will take whatever positive signs they can get at cornerback given how problematic that position has been for much of this season.
If nothing else, it's clear that Brown earned himself a longer look.
"He did really well," coach Pete Carroll said. "He played really well. He had a couple big hits, covered well when he had his chances. He was right where he was supposed to be. I've said this a lot to you guys, it's a lot to ask of a young guy, but he gives you the sense that he really has a really terrific feel for playing the position. He helped himself. He's going to play more."
Brown, a fourth-round pick from Oklahoma, was on the verge of getting first-team snaps in the preseason as the Seahawks were trying to determine their starting corners. Then he hyperextended his knee and strained his ACL, causing him to spend the first five games on injured reserve before he was activated ahead of the Steelers game.
"He had a really, really nice week competing his tail off, looking really quick, fast, feeling very confident with is knee," general manager John Schneider told 710 ESPN Seattle on his pregame radio hit. "He's a very tough, instinctive player and that's why we drafted him. We were excited he was still there. You're going to see a tough, competitive dude out there flying around."
The plan going into Sunday night, according to Carroll, was to insert Brown for Sidney Jones IV on the third series "and then see what happens."
Two things happened: Brown played well on that drive -- cutting off a go route on third down -- and Jones suffered a chest injury midway through the third quarter, forcing Brown to finish the game at left corner.
He played 40 of Seattle's defensive snaps and made three tackles, including a big one in overtime to force a punt.
"I was looking forward to this for a while and they called my name, I was like, 'Man, I've got to go out there and make plays,'" Brown said. "Seeing Ben Roethlisberger out there, trying not to be star struck by anything because he's a Hall of Fame player. Just seeing all these guys and just being out there for the first time, it was a wonderful feeling to be out there."
Schneider's description of the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Brown as tough and instinctive looked apt on his overtime stop. As Brown explained postgame, the Seahawks were in Cover 4, which left him responsible for the deep quarter of the field nearest the left sideline. That meant he had to stay on top of receiver Chase Claypool as he ran a curl route.
But when Brown saw Roethlisberger scramble to his right, he correctly anticipated that Roethlisberger would dump the ball off to slot man Ray-Ray McCloud in the flat. There were other defenders in the curl zone to help with Claypool, he explained. And given the situation -- third-and-4 from Pittsburgh's 26 -- he figured Roethlisberger would opt for the easier throw and a chance at a first down over the possibility of a longer completion to Claypool.
Brown shot back into the flat to bring down McCloud a yard shy of the line to gain.
"I just had to put the pedal to the metal and just run and get a third-down stop," he said.
It was heady stuff all things considered: a rookie making his NFL debut coming up with a key play in overtime of a prime-time game.
"That's all he's shown us," Carroll said. "I've told you guys that. That's what he's been doing. And that was a really good first go. Here it is on Sunday night and the whole thing, and it was not too big for him at all. He's been brought up right in the way he played in Oklahoma and all those big games and all that. This was not too big for him. He was really poised and did a nice job."
Carroll has previously indicated a reluctance to start two shorter cornerbacks. With 5-9 D.J. Reed on the right side, that's what Seattle would have if Brown eventually makes his way into the starting lineup. But if he continues to play well, there won't be much of a choice, especially if Jones' injury keeps him out.
"He deserves to play more," Carroll said.