With the 2015 NFL Draft and rookie minicamp now in the rearview mirror, the Pittsburgh Steelers 90-man offseason roster is getting pretty close to set, although there are always some late movements to balance out positional numbers or replace injured or underperforming players.
Now that the rookie class in in-house and the tryout players have either come and gone or stuck around, it’s time to take one last look at the Steelers’ roster as we head into the meat of the offseason. We wrap up the defensive side of the ball with a look at the safety position, which is comically deep.
Mike Mitchell: After signing a five-year free agent contract, Mitchell enters his year 28 season coming off a disappointing campaign and an offseason surgery on his groins. There are no doubt a variety of factors that contributed to his performance, but they’re all in the past now, and he will simply have to show better than he did a year ago, because the team is relying on him to start.
Shamarko Thomas: They’re also more or less relying on Thomas to start, taking over for the retired Troy Polamalu. A pair of hamstring injuries prevented him from getting on the field on defense last year, but he has been intriguing during his preseason appearances. He has also been excellent on special teams. He forced a fumble on a punt return against Carolina that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown and blocked a punt for a safety against the Ravens.
Will Allen: Old reliable returns for another season as he sets to turn 33. He started four games for Polamalu last year and overall represented himself well. He is the safety net in case either starter fails.
Robert Golden: After three seasons of special teams play, will this be the year we learn whether or not he can ever be more than that? He looks to me like he might have a shot as a deep safety, but we’ve not been able to tell.
Ross Ventrone: Ventrone was a pure special teams addition last year, called up from the practice squad when Thomas went down, but he stuck on the 53 for the rest of the year because they couldn’t justify sending him back down. Can he do that again?
Gerod Holliman: 14 interceptions is nothing to sneeze at, which is how many picks he recorded in his redshirt sophomore season in college last year, but his struggles as a tackler are not to be dismissed either. My guess is that unless he earns the special teams spot from the safety group, he’ll have to marinate on the practice squad for a year as Carnell Lake breaks his game down and tries to make him a tackler.
The Field: As was the case at wide receiver, the Steelers have stacked the numbers at the safety position, leaving a logjam at the back end with little separation. Not that there aren’t some interesting names.
Jordan Dangerfield had his moments with the team during the offseason and spent a bit of time on the practice squad. Isaiah Lewis had a good camp with the Bengals last year. Alden Darby has an interesting story. Ian Wild is the tallest from among this group. All figure to be competing for the practice squad, more likely than not.
Notes: As you can see, the Steelers made sure to add a wealth of competition at the safety position this year, and Holliman is a part of that group. There are very little ‘known’ quantities in this group, and some of those are even pushing it.