Perhaps former undrafted free agent safety Jordan Dangerfield is beginning to earn enough respect for us all to refrain from the obvious puns.
He may have a steep uphill climb ahead of himself in his goal to make the 53-man roster after just missing the cut a year ago with the Buffalo Bills, but at the very least, he might be starting to open some eyes and catch the attention of some of the other teams around the league.
Of course, he’ll need to keep up what he’s doing now in training camp when the preseason games come to make sure he has those big hits on tape for other scouting departments to pick up on. But that’s already assuming he can’t squeak through on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster.
Ostensibly, the Steelers would seem to have the deepest platoon of safeties that they’ve had in recent memory, such that they’ve taken to carrying five of them on the roster in recent years, in part due to their versatility in the slot.
Dangerfield is not one of those versatile safeties, so it doesn’t necessarily help his cause. And it remains to be seen just what kind of impact he can have on special teams, which will be the key make or break factor in terms of his chances of sticking on the roster.
As is always the case when it comes to the fringes of the position groups and the last few spots on the roster, the special teams coach—in this case, Danny Smith—has an awful lot of say in who makes the team.
In other words, if you’re curious about Dangerfield’s progress in the coaching staff’s eyes, see how, and how frequently, he is used on special teams during the preseason.
The Steelers made sure to give outside linebacker Adrian Robinson time on special teams two seasons ago to help justify keeping him on the roster, for example. The same could be said of wide receiver Derek Moye last year.
But the Steelers are not about to keep six safeties on the roster, so if he hopes to make the team, he’s going to have to knock off one of two veteran safeties, considering Troy Polamalu, Mike Mitchell, and Shamarko Thomas are for all intents and purposes untouchable.
So it comes down to either Will Allen, who has been taking first-team reps for most of the offseason with one starter or another out and who has been a major contributor on defense the last two years, or Robert Golden, who is arguably the team’s best special teamer.
Obviously, Dangerfield must continue what he’s started, when he began opening people’s eyes and calling attention to himself last week, for any of this to matter in a few weeks’ time. The big hits in the backfield and interceptions will mean nothing if they only happen in practice and begin to trail off.
He figures to see his fair share of playing time, presumably as a third-team team safety, during the preseason, which is still nearly a week away from kicking off for the Steelers. We should begin to learn a lot more by then, because as of now this isn’t much more than hurried speculation based on early training camp goings on.