2017 South Side Questions: Should Steelers Continue 3-Safety Look?

The regular season is now over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the playoffs as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to playoff success, in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: Should the Steelers continue to use the three-safety look that they showed at times against the Dolphins on Sunday?

The Steelers are generally seen as a fairly traditional defense that does a lot of unconventional things within that framework. I’m not so sure how well that reputation still holds up these days, particularly over the course of the past two seasons, but generally, they are still using the same template they have for a good, long while.

Still, they show a variety of looks from time to time, and one package that they have very sporadically shown this season has been a three-safety look with five or fewer defensive backs on the field. They have even used it in the 3-4, taking Artie Burns off the field.

It was a successful look on Sunday against the Dolphins in stopping the run, though, of course, it was a very small sample size, but the Steelers were obviously also committed to limiting Miami’s running game after what happened the last time, as should go without saying.

With Robert Golden out with an injury, the coaching staff used Jordan Dangerfield, the ‘veteran’ first-year player who started three games in place of Golden earlier this year, as the third safety, and he managed to make an assisted tackle for his efforts.

Taking the Chiefs next week, who run a pretty balanced offense, all things considered, without a substantial vertical presence, it would seem on paper to make sense to continue the sporadic usage of this sub-package.

The Steelers have toyed with the quarter defense over the course of the past two years, but seem to have fallen out of favor with it now. I can’t remember the last time they have had six defensive backs on the field. But I could see them continuing to make use of the ‘big nickel’, with two cornerbacks and three safeties on the field.

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