When the Pittsburgh Steelers first announced the signing of former Titans safety Daimion Stafford, I don’t know that many knew much of what to make of it, other than simply adding competition to a relatively top-heavy group of safeties.
As we learned more about him, however, it seemed as though a door could creak open for him to have a meaningful role on the defense, and not just on special teams. He played in Dick LeBeau’s defense as a third safety, which is an area at which the Steelers looked hard in the pre-draft process, but failed to bring one in.
Flash forward and we read that, according to Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider, the Steelers’ newest player confirmed to reporters yesterday that he was given some snaps with the first-team defense in the third safety role.
Now, it’s not entirely clear what to say about that right now considering the fact that Sean Davis isn’t practicing. Robert Golden is running with Mike Mitchell as the starting safeties, so for all we know, when Davis gets back to working in training camp, it will be Golden taking those third-safety reps with the first-team defense, something he has done for the past few years now.
Still, it is certainly an interesting development that indicates the Steelers could seriously be looking at Stafford to play that sort of role for them this season if he shows that he is capable of doing so. Clocking in at a bit under 220 pounds after dropping some weight, he ranked pretty high last season in terms of run-stop percentage, so he can hold up in run support.
The former Titan, according to Wexell, was taken off-guard by the opportunity, telling reporters, “they just called my name and I went in”. Still, I would imagine that the Steelers spoke to him about this role when they signed him in the first place.
Wexell also spoke to Ryan Shazier about Stafford working in the ‘dime’ or ‘quarter’ defense with the first team in practice yesterday, and the veteran linebacker said that he believes “it can help us out”, while reserving favor for a linebacker (e.g. Vince Williams) when it comes to the running game.
While he said that a dime safety wouldn’t “hurt” in such third-down situations in which a run is feasible, “a linebacker in that spot definitely helps more against the run”. Shazier of course would be the lone inside linebacker on the field in dime snaps.
Stafford started six games for the Titans last season, recording 52 tackles with one interception and two passes defensed. He has one sack in each of the past three seasons with 117 total tackles, two interceptions, nine passes defensed, and a forced fumble in his four-year career.
Whether or not he earns a role on defense, the 6’1” safety still stands a more than fair chance to wear a helmet on game day, as he is also regarded as a strong player on special teams. He’s also capable of making nice leaping grabs in practice, based on the above still from a video captured by Wexell.