The Pittsburgh Steelers have already answered the question as to who would play strong safety if Morgan Burnett were to miss a game, which is looking like a possibility for Monday as the veteran was limited in practice yesterday. That would be rookie Terrell Edmunds, who started the season opener.
But what about if Sean Davis misses a game? Do the Steelers view Edmunds as the number two safety for both spots? According to one member of the secondary, not quite.
Nickel cornerback Mike Hilton told Jacob Klinger yesterday that Burnett would be the number two free safety if Davis were to miss a game, and it would then follow that Edmunds would play strong safety. So who, then, is the number three free safety? Edmunds? Well, no.
According to Hilton, it’s actually himself. Davis, Burnett, and Edmunds are the first three safeties who will play. Beyond the three, Hilton would be the next one called upon, even though there are six safeties on the roster, Nat Berhe, Jordan Dangerfield, and Marcus Allen rounding out the group.
“I guess they feel comfortable with my ability to tackle if something breaks. They feel like I have good enough range to cover sideline to sideline“, Hilton said after confirming that he practiced as the number two free safety. “It’s just, whatever the coaches need me to do I’m willing to do it”. Klinger said that Hilton specifically confirmed he would take over at free safety ahead of Edmunds.
Should he have to play at safety, then it goes without saying that it would produce a ripple effect in the secondary, which would surely include Cameron Sutton moving into the slot. So in this extreme circumstance in which both starting safeties are injured, the starting secondary would consist of Artie Burns and Joe Haden at cornerback, Sutton in the slot, and Edmunds and Hilton at safety.
Hilton is a second-year player who emerged somewhat suddenly last season after spending some time on the practice squad the year before. He opened the season as the starting nickel back, a position that he held throughout the entire season.
But this is not the first time that he has talked about receiving reps in practice at safety. He mentioned it during the spring as well, and Sutton was used there in addition. He told Klinger that “it’s a fun position” because you “pretty much can see everything from a distance and have a lot of chances to make plays on the ball”.
For whatever it’s worth, Klinger says that Hilton also told him that Berhe would play the dimebacker role should the Steelers choose to run their dime defense missing both Burnett and Davis. That is the role that Burnett has been playing in that package through the first two games