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Steelers Secondary Ranked No. 23 Overall By PFF Entering 2018 Season

What do you think about the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary on the eve of the team reporting to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe for the start of their 2018 training camp. While the Steelers did rid themselves of several players who made up the their 2017 secondary and replaced them via free agency and the draft, Pro Football Focus still has that part of the team’s defense ranked 23rd in the league entering the 2018 season.

Here is what PFF Senior Analyst Mike Renner has to say about the Steelers secondary entering the 2018 season:

The Steelers have thrown a lot of resources at their secondary in recent years, but not much has stuck. We’ll see if that changes with the additions of [Morgan] Burnett and [Terrell] Edmunds this offseason. Arguably the most productive player in their back end at the moment was the one that took the least resources to get. {Mike] Hilton, the former undrafted free agent, was exceptional last season manning the slot for the Steelers. He only allowed 8.8 yards per catch in his coverage and a 74.6 passer rating.

Slot cornerback Mike Hilton was indeed quite a find for the Steelers last season and it will now be interesting to see if he can follow it up with another successful campaign in 2018. It will also be interesting to see how cornerback Joe Haden plays in his second season in Pittsburgh and especially now that he’s had a full offseason worth of practices with the team under his belt and one that didn’t require him rehabbing from a surgery. Artie Burns, the presumed starter once again opposite Haden, is now in his third season and he’ll really be expected to take another step forward following a very uneven 2017 season that included him unnecessarily giving up several big plays of which a few resulted in touchdowns.

The Steelers dumped three veteran safeties and a veteran cornerback during the offseason as Mike Mitchell, Robert Golden, J.J. Wilcox and William Gay were all sent packing. Mitchell, who primarily played the deep free safety spot during his four very uneventful seasons in Pittsburgh, is most likely to be replaced by third-year safety Sean Davis, who has primarily played near the line of scrimmage his first two seasons. Burnett, who came to the Steelers this offseason via free agency following eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, is likely to take over the role in the defense that Davis has played. As for Terrell Edmunds, the Steelers first-round selection this year out of Virginia Tech, he’s going to see the field sooner rather than later during his rookie season and likely be part of a dime or nickel sub package until ready to play every down.

Not mentioned by Renner in his latest PFF offering is second-year cornerback Cameron Sutton, the team’s first of two third-round draft picks in 2017. Sutton all of a sudden seems to have become a forgotten player after missing a good portion of his rookie season with a hamstring injury. While Sutton isn’t likely to be a starter come Week 1, the Steelers will likely find a way to get him on the field in some sub packages. Additionally, he’ll likely be the primary backup at all three cornerback positions.

On top of everything else, the Steelers drafted another safety a few months ago in Penn State product Marcus Allen and signed another one on the cheap during free agency in Nat Berhe. Hopefully, neither have to see the field on defense in 2018 and the same goes for second-year cornerback Brian Allen, a 2017 fifth-round draft pick. Regardless, the two additions deserve mentioning as both could ultimately make up a 2018 secondary group that figures to include 10 players in total.

Perhaps the biggest addition and subtraction this past offseason when it comes to the Steelers secondary might just be the coaching. Gone now is Carnell Lake and he was replaced by Tom Bradley, who enters his first season as an NFL coach with reputation of being a very good teacher. Can Bradley make a significant impact in his first season as the Steelers secondary coach? We’ll certainly see and if he does, don’t think it will go unnoticed. In fact, I’m surprised that Renner didn’t at least mention the Steelers coaching change at that position group.

Is the Steelers current secondary makeup better than the one they ended the 2017 season with? One would certainly hope so. Even so, that group enters 2018 with a lot to prove so it’s understandable why Renner has them ranked in the bottom third of the league.

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