Last week, the Houston Texans released their former 2013 second-round draft pick, D.J. Swearinger, a safety prospect that the Pittsburgh Steelers had shown interest in before selecting safety Shamarko Thomas later in the draft in the fourth round.
We also learned that the Steelers were among eight teams that submitted a waiver claim on him. Of course, being that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also submitted a claim, Pittsburgh was far away from landing him, as the Buccaneers had top priority, having finished the previous season with the worst record.
Since learning of this information, the Steelers’ fan base has gotten itself into a bit of a tizzy, with speculation running rampant, as is a commonplace occurrence after such things happen. Pittsburgh’s specific situation certainly is conducive to letting the imagination run wild.
After all, the Steelers are dealing with the retirement of their greatest safety to ever take the field in Troy Polamalu, and they are projecting that Thomas will be prepared to enter the starting lineup after playing two snaps on defense in his second season.
Swearinger, meanwhile, not only has the superior size and pedigree, but is also a two-year starter. And the front office has clearly been hedging its bets when it comes to safety, re-signing Will Allen once again, who played ahead of Thomas last year.
Beyond that, they also signed a multitude of interesting safety prospects as futures players earlier this offseason, and then added Gerod Holliman, the Jim Thorpe Award winner last season, through the draft.
While the Steelers seem ostensibly to be prepared to give Thomas his chance to stick with the job, the offseason buildup in terms of constructing the 90-man roster certainly presented a climate that made it easy to speculate about what the interest in Swearinger might mean for the third-year safety.
But perhaps we’ve simply been putting too much stock in what only amounts to a failed waiver claim that they surely knew they were unlikely to be awarded in the first place, having had the 22nd slot in terms of positioning.
I’m talking specifically about the speculation to the effect that the Steelers’ apparent interest in Swearinger must necessarily correlate to a certain level of dissatisfaction with Thomas as he enters his third season.
Interest in one player does not amount to dissatisfaction with another. The Steelers claimed a long snapper off waivers earlier this offseason, and he is already off the roster. Shayon Green, B.W. Webb, and Antwon Blake are all recent waiver claims that certainly were not responses to any specific player on their roster.
The Steelers didn’t just lose a starting safety with Polamalu’s retirement. Their entire depth chart at the position took a blow. Thomas was depth last year, but now he will be counted upon to provide starting-level play, which means that the depth must be replenished as well.
If the offseason has shown us anything, it’s that the team has been tireless in attempting to provide economic competition in that area with its array of futures players and low-round draft picks.
Adding a waiver claim to the mix may have been just that. While it’s possible that Swearinger, if successfully claimed, could have competed, and even won, a starting job by the start of the regular season, that still does not suggest that the Steelers were unsatisfied by what Thomas has shown them.