Of the five safeties that spent time on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 53-man roster during the 2015 season, two are set to hit free agency soon, and a third is a player who certainly appears to be viewed exclusively as a special teams contributor, having, to the best of my knowledge, never played a snap of defense in a meaningful NFL game.
Mike Mitchell is a mainstay at safety, of course, having started 32 straight games for Pittsburgh through two years of a five-year contract. Shamarko Thomas, entering the final year of his rookie contract, was meant to be the starter across from him, and practiced as such throughout the offseason process, but at the moment it doesn’t appear that the team has any hopes of him moving into such a role in the future, though he can still serve as depth.
With Will Allen entering his year-34 season, it is unclear if the team will be interested in retaining him yet again, and even if re-signed, he would have to earn his roster spot. Robert Golden is an intriguing candidate for re-signing given the potential that he could be viewed as a starter.
But there is another safety who has been with the Steelers for a while who has not really gotten talked about much since August, and who could possibly make a jump into relevance in 2016. That man would be first-year safety Jordan Dangerfield.
Dangerfield, at 5’11” and about 200 pounds, has a very similar build to Golden. He was originally signed by the Steelers as a Reserve/Future player in January 2014 after failing to make the Bills as a rookie undrafted free agent in 2013.
The former Towson came on strong early in training camp that year and created some buzz for himself, but his impact dwindled toward the end of camp, and he ultimately became an afterthought, missing the final cuts and not being signed to the practice squad initially. He was finally added late in the season, spending about a month there from early November to early December.
Though he was re-signed as a Reserve/Futures player in 2015, he didn’t initially make it to camp after a need at offensive tackle opened, and he was released just prior to camp, only to be re-signed two weeks later as injuries to the safety position struck.
He took advantage of his second opportunity, racking up 19 tackles and a forced fumble during the preseason with Pittsburgh, much of that coming on special teams, and that translated this time to a full season on the practice squad for him, even with the team carrying five safeties on the 53-man roster for much of the year.
Now at age 25 and having gone through three training camps already, might this be the year that Dangerfield finally make the jump from the practice squad to the 53-man roster? Signed for the third time by the Steelers as a Reserve/Future player, is this the right combination of preparation and opportunity that gets him over the hump?