The Pittsburgh Steelers are just beginning the process of trying to figure out who lines up where at the back end of the secondary following their decision to part with Mike Mitchell earlier this offseason, who had been their starting free safety for the past four seasons since Ryan Clark left the team.
Sean Davis is the carryover starter from last season, and even he doesn’t know exactly where he’ll end up just yet after the Steelers brought in eight-year veteran safety Morgan Burnett from the Green Bay Packers, who has spent most of his time in recent years at strong safety rather than free.
“Nothing really” has changed just yet about his role on the field, at least through two days of practice in May. “I’m playing out there with Morgan, and he’s a very versatile guy, so we can play left and right, we can do it both, so I’m still coming down, I’m still playing man, and Morgan can do the same thing”, he told reporters.
But what he was really excited about was just being out on the field and being a full participant in practice. At this time last year, he was still healing from surgery to repair a torn labrum that he played through during his rookie season.
By the time OTAs rolled around, Davis said last year that he felt good, but he was only working through individual drills and warmups and not participating in team drills. That is valuable time lost for a second-year player entering his first full season as a starter.
So the fact is not lost on him simply that he able to be out on the field right now and actually working together with Burnett and getting to know him on the field at this stage of the offseason. “To actually get out there with him, working with him and finding that chemistry, that’s one think that I’m happy for and excited looking forward”, he said.
And that’s good for the coaching staff, too, because they will get the opportunity to get a look at both Davis and Burnett playing both strong and free safety, and doing so together, to figure out which alignments works best for them.
Part of the process of making that determination has actually been not to designate either of them a position just yet. Davis and Burnett have just been playing one side of the field, with the offense helping to dictate which would play strong or free on any given play.
“We just did left and right because he can play both positions and so can I, so we did left and right and however the formation had us, that’s just what we did”, he told reporters.
Not mentioned has been Terrell Edmunds, the Steelers’ rookie first-round draft pick, another player that they view as capable of playing at either strong or free safety. Whether or not he gets the opportunity to fight for a starting job or will just play a complementary role initially remains to be seen.