The Pittsburgh Steelers only carried four safeties on their 53-man roster last year. Then they dumped three of the four, and despite that, they are set to carry at least five at the position in 2018, with the possibility even of six, either now or later on in the season.
With Nat Berhe re-signing, whether or not that coincides with Morgan Burnett being moved to injured reserve, that opens up the possibility of the team carrying six players at the position. If Burnett does go on injured reserve, it might not necessarily come at a safety’s expense when he is reactivated, as Cameron Sutton’s activation did not come at his position a year ago.
So how did the team go from basically having too few safeties last season to now seemingly too many? It helps when you bring in four new players at the position. Burnett and Berhe were both signed in free agency, and they drafted Terrell Edmunds and Marcus Allen. All four are expected to be on the roster.
Then, aside from starter Sean Davis, there is Jordan Dangerfield, who has been around the team seemingly for as long as I have been writing about them, in spite of the fact that this is only technically his second season as a rostered player.
Could carrying six safeties make sense? Well, it depends on a couple of different factors, but even under close to ideal circumstances, it is still a stretch. The dime defense would have to take on a very prominent role, and the back-end safeties would have to be above average special teams contributors with upside to boot.
An added wrinkle this year applies to Dangerfield. With four new faces on the team, Dangerfield is actually the only safety on the roster other than Davis who actually has run this defense in a meaningful game before. In fact, he has more knowledge of the playbook than every single member of the secondary, most likely, as no defensive back has been a part of the organization for a longer period of time.
And I mean none. No other defensive back has been here for more than two full seasons. Dangerfield is in his fifth year as a member of the Steelers in some capacity, originally signing with them as a Reserve/Future player in January 2014. He has accrued two seasons of practice squad time and has one season on the 53-man roster to show for it to date.
Should Burnett indeed be placed on injured reserve, Terrell Edmunds will be a starter, but it will be interesting to see if the Steelers use their three-safety package, during that time, and if so, who the third safety would be. It could be Dangerfield. It could be Berhe. It could even be Allen.