Jordan Dangerfield was originally an undrafted free agent out of Towson in 2013, a safety initially signed by the Bills. He spent that offseason and training camp with Buffalo, but he was unable to stick on to the 53-man roster that year.
Following the 2013 season, Dangerfield got an opportunity with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who signed him to a Reserve/Future contract at the end of that season. He came on early in training camp in 2014, but faded late, which was the same story that he faced with Buffalo the year before.
As a result, he was unable to make the roster, but he did spend a few weeks in the second half of the season on the Steelers’ practice squad. The team liked him enough to give him another Reserve/Future contract in 2015, but he was released ahead of training camp. With injuries mounting at safety, however, he was re-signed and played well enough to earn an initial spot on the practice squad, where he stuck for the entire season.
He was back once again for the 2016 edition of the preseason, the fourth such that Dangerfield has faced since originally coming out of college—which is pretty impressive when you consider that he has never spent a second on a 53-man roster, and has spent exactly 22 regular-season weeks over a three-year span on even a practice squad.
That may change tomorrow when the Steelers pare their roster down from 75 players to 53, and if it does change, it will have had a lot to do with his 10-tackle preseason finale against the Panthers. While he was far from flawless in the game—I recall in particular a missed tackle courtesy of a juke early in the game—he showed that he is capable of playing in this league.
Five of Dangerfield’s 10 tackles went for stops—four of them against the run, and one on a screen pass. Midway through the third quarter, he also forced an errant pass on a third-down play from the Steelers’ own four-yard line coming off a blitz and keeping after the quarterback, closing quickly and registering a hit in the process.
Obviously, Dangerfield is more of a box safety than a coverage aficionado—I mean, his name is Dangerfield, of course he’s going to be a box safety—but he has also shown himself, over the past four years, to be an asset to a special teams unit.
The Steelers have found themselves currently dealing with some notable injuries to special-teams-relevant players, among them safety Shamarko Thomas, and that only adds to the first-year safety’s value to the initial 53-man roster.
The man has been waiting four years now without giving up to make the roster. He has shown that he can hit. He has shown, I think, that he can play this game at this level, at least in some capacity, as a reserve and as a special teams player. Will today be the day he gets his first taste of an NFL roster? And if it is, how long might it last?