The Pittsburgh Steelers only have two safeties on their 53-man roster are at a close approximation of 100 percent health. Neither of them are their two starters, and one of them has only been on the team for a few days. That is not the ideal way to enter the regular season, but we should soon know more about whether or not it matters.
While there does not appear to be any consternation over whether or not second-year safety Sean Davis is going to be ready to play in the regular season opener on Sunday, Head Coach Mike Tomlin did admit that veteran starter Mike Mitchell is somebody that he would classify as questionable to play, ‘at this juncture’.
Mitchell suffered a lower body injury that I believe Ed Bouchette recently classified as a hamstring injury within the first few days of training camp, and he did not practice again until on Monday, missing the entirety of the preseason.
While a player with his experience does not need a lot of snaps to get ready for the season in his own regard, it is of course beneficial for starters to get time working together, and that is especially the case with Mitchell and Davis, who have hardly spent much time practicing together at all, since the latter spent much of the spring rehabilitating from shoulder surgery.
In the unlikely (?) event that Mitchell does not play on Sunday, it will be interesting to see what approach the Steelers will take to the position. While Robert Golden has run with the starters for most of the year due to Davis and Mitchell both missing quite a bit of time, the Steelers did just bring in a safety who has starting experience—and starting potential.
It is of course possible to bring in a safety right before the season starts and plug him into the lineup. That is how the Steelers were able to trade for J.J. Wilcox, because the Buccaneers signed T.J. Ward to start for them, making the former expendable, and thus available.
Reportedly, the former Cowboy did spend some time working with the first-team defense, potentially in a variety of capacities, and it would not be surprising at all to see him on the field on defense in some form or fashion, even if it is in their quarter sub-package with three cornerbacks and three safeties on the field.
The broader issue of potential communication concerns in the secondary is one that should be addressed more broadly, but it is one that should be of concern. With neither starting safety seeing a ton of time working with the defense, and having a new starter in Joe Haden plugging into the lineup without even preseason work, there is ample opportunity for mental errors. Plus in another brand new player, and the odds of miscommunication shoot up even further.