When it comes to first-year Pittsburgh Steelers safety Jordan Dangerfield, the tired refrain over the years has become that he doesn’t get any respect. Of course, the obvious tie-in here is to Rodney Dangerfield, but the fact that he was released three times over the course of the previous three seasons in the trim from 75 men certainly played a role.
But it’s not that he wasn’t respected, of course. There’s a reason the Steelers brought him back three times, and why he made the roster now. “I think he’s gotten better”, said defensive coordinator Keith Butler on Thursday.
“I was real pleased with him last year. I hated to see us cut him last year. I felt like last year he had a good camp for us and then he came back again this year and had another good camp for us”, he continued. While he acknowledged that he earned his way on special teams, he also clearly likes his defensive game, which is why he made his NFL defensive debut on Sunday.
He played all but eight snaps in the game and did a little bit of everything, including playing a surprising number of snaps at deep safety. Early in the game, he actually came in on a cat blitz that forced Alex Smith to abandon a screen to the right. He turned to his left and threw, the pass was tipped, and the defense intercepted the ball.
Of course, he also spent a lot of time up in the box, which is where he is at his best, and an early second-quarter run on first down probably exhibits the sort of tenacity that he brings to the game best. Lined up just off the line of scrimmage, he came in on a run blitz and split two blockers, forcing the runner to cut back inside, where he was met by a swarm. Dangerfield still chased after him, though he did not get to join in on the tackle. But he helped make plays for others on the night.
I mentioned in an article earlier in the week that Dangerfield also played an important role in keeping the Chiefs’ passing game to their running backs and tight ends in check, and this early third-quarter play is a good example of that. Smith tried to get the ball out to his back on the edge, but the safety was shadowing him and cut him down at the line of scrimmage.
He got him again a bit later in the quarter on a pass on which he leaked out of the backfield. This three-yard gain was one of the few receptions the Chiefs even managed to complete to their running backs on the day.
Dangerfield played with a level of instinctiveness that comes with being around the game and in a system for a number of years, and though this is his first year on the roster, that is a fitting description for him. The Steelers seem to trust him to play if they need him to, and I think he justified that trust.