Meet the New Steeler: CB Brandon Dixon
If someone asked you about the a Steeler who was raised in South Florida and whose identical twin also plays in the NFL for a southern team, you would undoubtedly assume they were talking about Maurkice Pouncey. You might then be confused if the person says “No, I’m pretty sure the guy I mean plays defense.”
And that would be because this hypothetical person would be thinking of a much more recent addition to the Steelers than Maurkice—and for that matter a much more unheralded one. In short, s/he would be referring to Brandon Dixon.
Dixon was drafted in the sixth round in 2014 by the Jets. His brother Brian, also a cornerback, was signed as a UDFA by the Saints. Brandon, the older twin (by five minutes or so) and, according to his brother, the more serious one, was also the more successful of the two at the high school and college level, but Brian was the one who actually earned a roster spot on an NFL team first. He played for most of two seasons with the Saints, was signed briefly by the Cardinals, and is now at Jacksonville.
Brandon, in the meantime, has only once made an active roster—with Tampa Bay in 2014. Otherwise he has been on the practice squad of four other teams, the most recent of those being the Steelers. (He was signed, cut, and re-signed last December.) One of the teams he signed with was the Saints, thus making them the first set of twins to play on the same team since 1926.
But let’s talk about the twin we’ve got. Here’s what his NFL Draft Profile had to say back in 2014:
Excellent size, musculature and body length. Nice balance and body control. Quick-footed to mirror off the line. Can flip his hips and run vertically. Good plant-and-drive quickness. Willing to step up and throw his weight around in run support. Has special-teams experience. Tough and durable. Competitive and motivated.
There’s always bad news, of course, even for the guys that are top draft picks. For Dixon, the bad news is, to condense it (always best with bad news) – small hands, ordinary leaping ability, and a lack of football aptitude.
But he obviously has the physical tools, and perhaps Carnell Lake can better teach him how to use them. We can only wait and see.
In the meantime he sounds like a great kid. When the Saints asked his twin about the possibility of signing his brother, Brian had was happy to vouch for him:
“When they asked me, I would tell them good things about him,” Brian said. “I’d just say he’s a hard worker and he does everything for the team.”
The linked article, from nola.com, noted that the brothers were, according to Brian, never jealous of one another, and Brandon said about Brian making a roster as a UDFA while he himself only made a practice squad:
“I was praying for him every night,” said Brandon. “I was real proud of him.”
In an article written in 2014, when Brandon was on the Tampa Bay roster, the Tampa Bay Times published an article talking about the brothers playing against each other when the Saints came to town that season. It began thus:
On Sunday afternoon, for perhaps the first time in their 24 years, it will be easy to tell Brandon and Brian Dixon apart.
The author went on to explain
They’re both 6 feet, 195 pounds, with long dreadlocks that cover up the name on the back of their jerseys. As juniors in college, they each intercepted five passes, with one touchdown. As seniors, when few teams would throw against them, they each intercepted one pass. They wore Nos. 1 and 2 at NMSU, as close as jersey numbers can be.
“When you watch them run, even watch them backpedal, it’s eerie how similar they are,” said Adam Dorrel, their head coach at NMSU and himself the father of 3-year-old twins. “It’s bizarre. I’ve been around twins before, but never like that. They finish each other’s sentences.”
As long as they have oppsoing jerseys, though, it’s simple. Whether Brandon will continue to wear a Steelers jersey after training camp, or ever makes the 53-man roster, remains to be seen. His brother’s path to a roster spot was as a special teams gunner, and this is probably Brandon’s path as well.
So a belated welcome to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mr. Dixon. See you in training camp!