2018 Offseason Questions: Who Will Open Season At Free Safety?

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: Who will open the season at free safety for the Steelers?

It had been taken as something of a foregone conclusion since the Steelers released Mike Mitchell—and even more so since they signed Morgan Burnett—that the team would be moving starting strong safety Sean Davis over the free safety this season, which would make it the third different position he has started in a season opener in his third year.

Davis actually was the team’s starting slot defender to open his rookie season in 2016 before he took over the strong safety job midway, and he has been firmly in that role for the past year and a half. There is a very real possibility that he moves once again.

But it’s not definite. Head Coach Mike Tomlin said that he assumes Burnett will begin offseason activities lining up at free safety, though he acknowledged that the team was open to moving Davis there as well later on.

The team tends to favor security over playmaking at the safety position, as was the case with Ryan Clark. He never put up big numbers and was not the traditional ‘center fielder’ that many Steelers fans are wishing for from the spot, but he was reliable and a sure tackler.

Burnett in that position would be in a similar mold, not a dynamic splash-play-generator but somebody who would be in the right position and would finish the plays that are in front of him, cleaning up mistakes and limiting the damage. This is basically how Joe Haden recently described the free safety position as well, though he said he believes Davis could do it.

And now we get to throw first-round pick Terrell Edmunds into the mix. Given that there is technically no incumbent starter, we can’t rule him out. T.J. Watt was a day-one starter last year, and Javon Hargrave sort of was as well.

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