By the end of the 2014 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers finished out the year carrying no less than six players at the safety position on their 53-man roster. Five safeties made the roster out of training camp, while a sixth was called up mid-season from the practice squad. A seventh safety spent a month on the practice squad in November.
Yet the Steelers only have two safeties currently on the roster with playing experience for the team, excluding Troy Polamalu, the 12-year veteran who is widely expected to be released if he does not choose to retire over the course of the offseason.
And one of those safeties, Shamarko Thomas, spent nearly all of his playing time as a rookie in 2013, and played in the slot. The other one, Mike Mitchell, is entering his second season as a starter with the team after joining the Steelers as a free agent, playing through a groin injury.
Robert Golden also has a minute amount of playing experience, and he has been tendered an offer as a restricted free agent. While he is fully expected to sign his tender, he has not done so yet. Ross Ventrone remains on the roster, but seems pegged squarely as a special teams player, in part due to his size.
Assuming that Polamalu is gone, and the Steelers do not re-sign free agent Will Allen, I can’t help but wonder if the Steelers believe that they have safety depth in-house already, as they have spent the offseason stockpiling such players.
As of right now the team lists nine safeties on the roster, or eight if you remove Polamalu from the equation. That figure also includes Golden.
Included in that equation are four players signed to futures contracts, among them Jordan Dangerfield, who spent last offseason with the team, and served a month on the practice squad.
Dangerfield created a bit of a name for himself during training camp, and also played well during the early portions of the preseason before trailing off.
He ultimately lost a spot on the practice squad to Ventrone, but essentially took his place on the squad for a brief period of time after he was called up to the 53-man roster. If any of the four safeties from this group is to emerge from the pack and contend for a spot on the 53-man roster, it would probably figure to be him in the early goings.
Of the other three, perhaps Isaiah Lewis is the most interesting prospect. He played in the same backfield as first-round cornerback Darqueze Dennard, but like Dennard, is a bit undersized at 5’10”. He plays a physical game and is big on run support, which suggests that he would be better suited as an in the box safety.
Ian Wild has the size that you look for after spending some time in the CFL logging some duty at linebacker a year ago. The Steelers added bulk at this position for a reason, and it will be interesting to see if they net any keepers out of this group.