The Pittsburgh Steelers have wrapped things up in minicamp and put an end to their spring practices, which means that we are officially into the dead zone, the slowest time of the year for football news and general activity, the time between the end of spring drills in mid-June to the opening of training camps in late July.
Before we get there, we are going to take a look at how the team’s roster has evolved since prior to the draft, the last time that we broke down the Steelers by position, and obviously a lot has changed since they have fleshed out their 90-man roster.
Total Positional Figure: 8
Mike Mitchell: Mike Mitchell really came into his own last season and emerged as one of the Steelers’ best defenders, making impact plays by producing turnovers, and doing so in the end zone. If he can stay healthy, and continue to improve his tackling, he can border on a Pro Bowler. I would also like to see him get home a little better on blitzes
Robert Golden: Chances are Robert Golden will begin the season as the starter, and perhaps end it there as well. He played well in his three starts last season and knows the defense as well as anybody in his fifth year in the system.
Shamarko Thomas: The man who was supposed to start last year, Shamarko Thomas is trying to salvage himself after his failed campaign. He is still a very valuable special teams player, but he will need to have a very good preseason to earn his coaches’ good graces on defense.
Ross Ventrone: A special teams lifer, Ross Ventrone’s only obstacle to a roster spot is if they can afford to keep a fifth safety who doesn’t play defense.
Jordan Dangerfield: Jordan Dangerfield has been around for a few years now too, the last two years with the Steelers. He spent all season on the practice squad last year, but with the above names and an Sean Davis added, you have to think he likely doesn’t make the roster.
Ray Vinopal: Former Pitt Panther Ray Vinopal was signed to a Reserve/Future contract immediately following the season. Not particularly tall or fast, he is a physical player who spent 2015 with the Cowboys during training camp, but was cut in the first wave.
Jacob Hagen: Jacob Hagen does have one quality going for him, and that is size, listed at 6’2” and 205 pounds. He also showed interception capability in college. The 2015 undrafted free agent didn’t survive final cuts with the Rams last year.
Sean Davis: A rookie second-round pick, Sean Davis is an athletic safety who loves to tackle and has coverage ability. Still, he is a work in progress and shouldn’t be expected to waltz into the starting lineup. He may contribute in the big nickel (three safeties) or dime defenses, however, and should be active on special teams
Notes and Camp Outlook: The position seems to be in good hands with Mitchell and Golden this year, and Davis is the future. What is Thomas, at this point? At some level, that’s still very much up to him to determine. Unfortunately for Dangerfield and his ilk, I have a hard time imagining he will get much respect when it comes to the roster.