Injuries Open Door For Fringe Safeties To Make Roster Push

A number of injury situations at different positions, particularly in the secondary, are leaving the door ever so slightly ajar for one of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Reserve/Future signings at the safety position to make some headway and, perhaps, crack the 53-man roster. The preseason games, such as the one tonight against the Eagles, will go a long way toward determining whether the foot in the door leads to anything more.

The two prime candidates for potential promotion would seem to be training camp ‘veteran’ Jordan Dangerfield, who has been in four different training camps now, this being the third in Pittsburgh. He did make progress last year, managing to sign on to the practice squad and stay there all season.

But also in the discussion, particularly in the latter days of training camp, has been Jacob Hagen, the 6’3”, 200-plus-pounder out of Liberty who managed to make it to the final cut down, and stuck briefly on the Rams’ practice squad before being released and sitting out the rest of the season as a former undrafted player.

The first-year man has shown an ability to take the ball away, intercepting 14 passes over the course of his final three seasons in college. He hinted at that with the Rams a year ago, and has begun to show that in recent practices as well.

With the hamstring injury suffered by Ross Ventrone, the team’s top pure special-teams player in recent years, who was placed on injured reserve and then received an injury settlement, and in combination with other factors, such as the lack of depth at cornerback, there could be a role for either unheralded safety if it is warranted on special teams, even if it is looking like a longshot.

The fact that many of the Steelers’ defensive backs who seem to be booked for a roster spot offer position flexibility, or the potential to be so, could lead to them feeling less urgency to carry a higher number of players. Rookie Sean Davis, for example, no doubt is looked at as both a safety and cornerback.

Another former training camp ‘veteran’, DaMon Cromartie-Smith, managed to make the roster under similar circumstances, briefly, in 2011, as well as in the following two years at various points in the season. He spent a total of 10 games active during that time period.

Still, it will not be a simple matter for either Dangerfield or Hagen to find a spot on the roster the way Cromartie-Smith did, particularly due to the number of positions on the roster that may require carrying an extra player for a variety of reasons, from tight end to either linebacker position, or even the offensive line.

In truth, the safety position has been one in recent years to produce a number of training camp favorites who ultimately do not make it. Just last season, there were Ian Wild and Alden Darby getting people excited. These positions regularly do not work out. But I think there is an opportunity to be seized in the secondary at the moment due to injury.

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