The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Who will the Steelers’ backup free safety be, and is he on the roster?
The Steelers currently have five safeties on the roster. One of them—Morgan Burnett—they have already gone record as saying that they will be parting ways with within days, either via trade or a simple release.
Considering the fact that they carried six safeties on the roster in the early portions of last season, it’s reasonable to assume that the team might be interested in exploring an addition or two to the position via free agency or the draft.
Returning from last season as the starters are Sean Davis as he heads into his critical fourth season and Terrell Edmunds, the team’s first-round draft pick a year ago, who started 15 of 16 games and supplanted Burnett as the starting strong safety while the veteran was sidelined with multiple injuries.
As it currently stands, the two players who will be backing them up are third-year veteran Jordan Dangerfield and second-year Marcus Allen, both of whom played very specific and limited roles on defense at different parts of the season last year.
Dangerfield, who did start two games at strong safety in 2016, was used as a ‘heavy’ defender in a 3-4 defensive look, replacing a cornerback in order to counter offensive sets that featured only one wide receiver. With mounting injuries, Allen served in the dimebacker role for one game against the Chargers.
The thing is, neither of them profile as free safeties, so it would make sense for them to try to add somebody over the course of the next month or so who is capable of commanding that role.
At the start of last season, the plan was for Edmunds to be the backup free safety behind Davis. Mike Hilton suggested that he would be the next in line after that. But all three of them will be on the field together in their base nickel defense, so it would be beneficial to find an alternative pecking order.