It used to be cute to reference Pittsburgh Steelers safety Jordan Dangerfield as not getting enough respect in post and stories but that angle has now been overplayed at this point with the Towson product making the initial 53-man roster the last few seasons. While Dangerfield has more than earned the respect of Steelers coaches and fans of the team at this point of his career, he knows that he must continue to earn a roster spot every offseason.
“That’s the first rule: Never get comfortable,” Dangerfield said last week during OTA practices, according to Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “There’s always somebody in life trying to take your spot. You’ve got to come out and prove it every day.”
A backup safety and core special teams player the last few seasons, Dangerfield now looks to once again beat out several other younger safeties on the offseason roster this summer in the form of Dravon Askew-Henry, P.J. Locke and defensive back Kameron Kelly, who can play multiple positions in the secondary. While Kelly reportedly received some first-team reps at free safety during the first two weeks of OTA practices while starter Sean Davis was sidelined with a minor injury, Dangerfield also reportedly played some with the first-team defense as well and he feels he took advantage of them.
“It’s been big,” Dangerfield said, per Gorman’s story. “I’ve been here. I know the defense.”
Last season, Dangerfield, who first arrived in Pittsburgh in 2014 on a Reserve/Futures contract, played all of 76 total defensive snaps and his way to registering 5 total tackles on that side of the football. 49 of those snaps came in the regular season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals as he started that game in place of an injured Davis. Not only did Dangerfield play every defensive snap in that Week 17 game, he also had a team-high 19 special teams snaps in that contest. How’s that for earning your keep in Week 17?
Dangerfield’s path to where he is now in his NFL career has included him being waived from a roster or cut from a practice squad a total of seven times. Last week during the final week of OTA practices, Dangerfield made sure to recognize the fact that not many other players would have had the metal fortitude to stick around as long as he’s been able to.
“They would have folded,” Dangerfield said. “That’s why I’m different. I’m built different. I keep my faith. Every time I get an opportunity, I’m thankful and make the most of it.”
If not for an ankle injury suffered during the Steelers 2017 preseason finale, Dangerfield would have likely been on the Steelers 53-man roster most, if not all of, the entire season. Instead, the Steelers had to waive him injured and eventually cut him with a settlement so that he could possibly return later in the season, which he ultimately did. Obviously with all that Dangerfield has gone through since entering the NFL in 2013 with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent, he doesn’t assume anything moving forward into whatever is now left of his professional football career.
“I don’t take any day for granted,” Dangerfield said, “because I’ve been through the ups and downs, been through life without football – a whole year, a few weeks even when I was healthy – so all I’ve got to do is think about those hard times and I’m motivated every day.”
With the Steelers mandatory minicamp set to start on Tuesday, it’s hard to envision Dangerfield ultimately not being on this year’s 53-man roster. After all, he’s a core special teams player and while his defensive playing time has been limited over the years, he can be trusted in the defense to be in the right spot. Obviously, one of the younger defensive backs could ultimately make Dangerfield expendable later this summer, it will be a tough chore to accomplish that feat just the same.
Dangerfield, by the way, graduated from Towson University a few weeks ago and that’s a goal he’s been trying to accomplish for the last several years.
“It’s a backup plan, something to fall back on after football,” Dangerfield said of him recently graduating. “Whatever I decide to do, I’ve got that in my back pocket.”