2018 Offseason Questions: How Safe Is J.J. Wilcox?

The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.

Question: How safe is J.J. Wilcox’s roster spot?

The Steelers entered the 2017 season with four safeties on the roster. They released two of them and brought in another via free agency, leaving them with three players who were on teams a year ago. Sean Davis was the team’s starting strong safety, and Morgan Burnett, the free agent signing, started for the Green Bay Packers.

The other safety is J.J. Wilcox, who had some starting experience prior to his being demoted while in Dallas, where he was drafted in the third round in 2013. He signed a modest two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency about a year ago, but they traded him to the Steelers just before the regular season after they brought in T.J. Ward.

Earlier this offseason, Pittsburgh released Mike Mitchell, who has been their starting free safety for the past four years, and backup Robert Golden, who has made about a dozen starts in his career, doing so at both strong and free safety.

The only other safeties on the roster are Jordan Dangerfield and Malik Golden. Dangerfield has been around for years already, mostly on the practice squad, but he was on the 53-man roster for the 2016 season and even started two games while Golden, temporarily the starter in the first half of that season, was injured, and before Davis took over the job. Golden was an undrafted free agent last year who injured himself during a preseason interception and was waived injured.

It would be shocking if the Steelers do not come away from this draft without a safety, so we can probably assume that at least Davis, Burnett, and a rookie will be there. Dangerfield remains a reasonable option.

One must also consider the possibility of a cornerback being converted to safety, which had been mentioned for both Cameron Sutton and Brian Allen. Assuming that Wilcox did not reduce his salary from $3.125 million (the 12th-highest cap hit on the team), how safe is he through free agency? Through the draft? Through the season?

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