We started this series with less than two weeks remaining to the draft, knowing that nearly all of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ pertinent personnel decisions will have already been made. Over the course of the series, we will be reviewing the team’s roster turnover position by position in an effort to help us project what their plans will be for the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Steelers had 10 players scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this offseason and have re-signed four of them, those being Le’Veon Bell, Justin Hunter, Stevan Ridley, and Daniel McCullers. The only unrestricted free agent to sign elsewhere has been Chris Hubbard. They resigned nine exclusive rights or restricted free agents, from Fitzgerald Toussaint and Mike Hilton to Chris Boswell and Roosevelt Nix.
Also of note were the released of William Gay, Mike Mitchell, and Robert Golden, the three most veteran players in the secondary. The team has signed three outside free agents in Jon Bostic, Morgan Burnett, and Nat Berhe. Now we examine how these moves and their pre-draft hints shape their future based on position since the offseason has begun.
Total Positional Figure: 6
Offseason Additions: 2
Offseason Deletions: 3
Sean Davis: Davis is now the only safety on the roster who has meaningful starting experience with the team, and he has only been in the league for two years. He is coming off a very inconsistent year that continued to prove he needs major work on his tackling efficiency, but he did produce some turnovers. His season should not be defined by Rob Gronkowski, however.
J.J. Wilcox: Perhaps skating on thin ice depending upon what happens in the draft, Wilcox was acquired via late trade. He immediately took over the role of the top backup and even rotated in during the first couple of weeks, starting a game due to injury, but was later benched, first on defense, and then on special teams as well.
Jordan Dangerfield: Dangerfield spent the year on the practice squad after being on the roster in 2016. Could he work his way back up to the 53 again?
Malik Golden: Golden was with the team in the preseason but was waived after an injury and re-signed to a Reserve/Future contract in January. He does have some promise and will definitely compete at least for a spot on the practice squad.
Morgan Burnett: Arguably their biggest free agent addition this year, Burnett is a nine-year veteran safety who will be an immediate starter and can also serve as a dimebacker. His exact role maybe yet to be determined, but it will be a major role.
Nat Berhe: Another free agent addition, Berhe is primarily for special teams, but has played as a third safety in the past with the Giants.
Mike Mitchell: After four seasons, all of which were plagued by minor injuries, the Steelers cut the cord with Mitchell at the end of a five-year deal. He remains a free agent despite being a full-time starter the past four years.
Robert Golden: Arguably the biggest surprise of the offseason was the team releasing Golden, a special teams ace and a player they used on defense, who was their primary backup safety. He quickly landed in Kansas City.
Notes And Draft Outlook:
Even with the tinkering of the position, safety is still one of the biggest priorities for the Steelers to address. Burnett is not a long-term answer, turning 30 in January, and Davis still has yet to prove he is a franchise piece. Anywhere from the first round on is in play, and it’s quite possible two safeties are drafted.