As the calendar has finally hit the late-July date that signals the start of training camp for the Pittsburgh Steelers, we turn our attentions for the next few weeks to just that, training camp, the necessary respite for all football fans who have been the past six weeks wondering what to do with themselves—as least as far as the game goes.
With the start of training camp also comes the start of meaningful competition, and I’m not just talking about players getting to put on pads and smash into each other. There are battles to be won. Position battles, roster battles. Battles for starting jobs.
Before we get too deep into the swing of training camp, here is a quick series that provides a preview of some of the most significant battles that will have to be determined over the course of training camp and the preseason, though the regular season can always decide to change the results.
While others certainly seem to disagree, I tend to be of the belief that there is already an informal hierarchy in place, but still, all positions must be earned on a yearly basis, and that applies to the top backup safety position as much as it does any other on the field.
The role of top backup safety has belonged to sixth-year Robert Golden for the past two seasons already. He initially drew praise for his play filling in for Will Allen during an injury over a four-game stretch in the 2015 regular season.
The former undrafted free agent entered last year as a starter, but he quickly found himself dealing with injuries as early as the third game of the season, missing the next two and being replaced in those games by Jordan Dangerfield.
While Golden was ultimately supplanted by rookie Sean Davis in the starting lineup, it will be Dangerfield with whom he is competing this offseason for the right to retain his place as the first safety off the bench.
After Golden lost his starting job, it seemed for a time that Dangerfield was getting opportunities for a couple snaps here and there when injury dictated it, although the former was also dealing with some injuries at the time, so it is hard to read too much into it.
While Davis was sidelined recovering from labrum surgery in the spring, though, it was Golden who lined up in his place with the first-team defense, and Golden again yesterday who stepped in when Mike Mitchell left practice with a nick.
But that does not mean that the race is over. It’s really just beginning. Dangerfield will have an opportunity to climb the ladder if he performs well during the preseason. And with Daimion Stafford seemingly taking himself out of the picture, he stands to face even better odds.