PITTSBURGH — Levi Brown failed to live up to his pedigree with the Arizona Cardinals. The winless Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping a change of scenery might help Brown turn his career — and Pittsburgh’s sagging season — around.
Both teams announced Wednesday that the Steelers have acquired Brown for a conditional draft pick.
The 29-year-old Brown never appeared comfortable in Arizona after the Cardinals selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft, two spots ahead of Adrian Peterson.
As a rookie, he started at right tackle for Arizona’s 2008 Super Bowl team, and then was moved to left tackle. But he never became the dominant blocker the Cardinals envisioned.
After missing all of 2012 with a torn triceps, Brown was labeled an “elite” tackle by new coach Bruce Arians in the offseason. But Arians quickly lost faith in Brown as the big lineman struggled against the pass rush off the edge.
He gave up three sacks to Robert Quinn in Arizona’s season opener at St. Louis.
“I don’t think it comes as any surprise that Levi Brown was not living up to our expectations,” Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said.
Brown will be replaced by Bradley Sowell, claimed off waivers from the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 1. Sowell played in 10 games for Indianapolis as an undrafted rookie last season, when Arians was offensive coordinator, then interim head coach.
Arians said he expected “no drop-off at all” at the position.
“The problems that have occurred I don’t think will get any worse,” Arians said. “Hopefully they’re going to get better, not only in pass protection but in the run game.”
Keim said the Cardinals had been looking to move Brown since the first week of the season.
“At the end of the day, when you realized that he was not in our long-term plans,” Keim said, “instead of belaboring the point and keeping him on our roster, it was just in the best interests of the organization to move and move on as quickly as possible.”
Regardless of Brown’s spotty record, the winless Steelers (0-4) desperately need help along the offensive line. Pittsburgh is off this week before traveling to New York to face the Jets on Oct. 13. While coach Mike Tomlin declined to detail what kind of role Brown would play if he joins the team, Tomlin allowed there’s a chance for Brown to make an immediate impact.
“I’ll wait until I get an opportunity to meet him and work with him and let that be the determining factor,” Tomlin said. “The great thing is that we obviously not only have a full week of work ahead of us, but we also have a Monday bonus day which we intend to take full advantage of.”
Center Maurkice Pouncey is out for the year with a right knee injury and second-year left tackle Mike Adams has failed to adapt to the left side. Adams played well in spots at right tackle as a rookie before being moved to left tackle in the spring. The adjustment has been rocky at best. Adams surrendered 2 1-2 sacks to Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen in a 34-27 loss to the Vikings in London last weekend and was briefly replaced by Kelvin Beachum.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who coached Brown while serving in the same position with Arizona in 2008, declined to talk about the trade, but acknowledged the line play in Pittsburgh hasn’t been anywhere close to acceptable. The Steelers have allowed 15 sacks through four games. Only Miami, Jacksonville and Cleveland gave up more during September.
“It’s not just left tackle, it’s across the board,” Haley said. “We’ve got to be better everywhere. We’ve got to be better getting rid of the football. We’ve got to be better blocking, the backs, everybody. When you’re getting pressure, it takes everybody, and everybody’s got to do a better job.”
The Steelers have serious salary cap issues, though Brown does come at a bit of a discount. Pittsburgh will pick up the remaining $3.6 million of Brown’s contract. He will count for a $4.2 million cap hit for the Cardinals in 2014.
Brown figures to step in for Adams rather than move over to right tackle, where Marcus Gilbert has shown signs of progress.
“I think the coaches feel comfortable with where I’m at now, so they don’t want to make a move now that I’m getting better every week,” Gilbert said. “So, I guess I’ll be sticking to the right side right now.
“Everybody’s looking to get better and to improve our offense. We know that there’s going to be changes, but we have to keep getting better and try to turn this thing around right now.”
The Steelers released cornerback Isaiah Green to make room for Brown.