Devil’s Advocate: Safe Landing For Hagen

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Could first-year safety Jacob Hagen safely land on the 53-man roster?

The Steelers have taken in recent years to the habit of carrying five safeties on the 53-man roster. Based on the current roster makeup, it doesn’t seem as though that is incredibly likely to happen again in 2017.

Pittsburgh lost one safety from last season, that being Shamarko Thomas, who was a standout player on special teams in the role of gunner on the punt coverage unit. They chose not to re-sign him and he remains a free agent. They also did not address the position in free agency or the draft.

Could that have something to do with Jacob Hagen, who, like Jordan Dangerfield, is becoming a training camp veteran? Hagen originally signed with the Rams in 2015 as an undrafted free agent, but didn’t make the team, getting practice squad time. He spent time on the Steelers’ practice squad last year.

They do seem to like him, and one thing they obviously like about him is his height, officially listed at 6’3”. He recorded five tackles and a pass defensed in the preseason last year.

Given the theoretically open roster spot at safety, Hagen obviously should have a chance to make the roster, and certainly a better one than any of the other safeties that could currently be vying for that spot. His size could interest them in terms of covering tight ends, and he is also capable of contributing on special teams.

But it could certainly be argued that that roster spot would be better spent strengthening a different position with more depth. Hagen is likely to be a player who is easily retained on the practice squad, or at least it would seem that way on the surface. Should they need him on the roster, they would only have to promote him.

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