Exiting this year’s draft, there were two positions the Pittsburgh Steelers still felt a bit weak at. Tight end and safety. At least the team selected the former, taking Zach Gentry in the 5th round, while ignoring the latter, proving to be one of the draft’s biggest surprises.
So it’s no shock to hear Keith Butler admit they’re still searching for safety depth. The answer? Throw a lot at the wall and see what sticks.
“To me, I think we’ve got to find a very reliable third safety,” Butler said in a recent interview with Steelers Nation Radio,” because it’s going to mean something to us because, you know, quarterbacks in this league are going to be reading safeties anyway and trying to find out what we call the post safety is. If they can find out who that guy is and for most people on defenses, it’s easier for them to read.”
Kameron Kelly has been the backup free safety, elevated to a starting role after Sean Davis was sidelined by a finger injury, but Butler said they’ll explore other options too.
“I mean, we’re gonna move Steve Nelson around, let him play a little nickel and stuff like that. We might take [Hilton] and put him back at safety a little bit, too, and see what he looks like. So, we’re looking and seeing what we got and seeing how many DBs we’re going to keep and all that stuff.”
It sounds like Steven Nelson will play some slot corner, allowing Mike Hilton to get a few reps at safety. He logged a few snaps last training camp but aside from one or two snaps in the regular season, has always played his slot corner role. He did, however, play some free safety while at Ole Miss. Still, that’s not a great solution, shifting players away from their best positions, and figures to be used on an “emergency” basis as it was last season.
Jordan Dangerfield is the only backup free safety on the roster with NFL experience in that spot. He’s been running third team and never had a strong grasp on a roster spot, putting him squarely on the bubble and for the moment, perhaps outside of it.
There is another option. The team could always go outside the organization to add talent. If there’s one position they could address via trade, it’s probably safety, even moreso than tight end. Kevin Colbert is as active as any GM in the league during the month of August, making ten trades since 2015, and the team could be on the prowl for an 11th deal, especially if guys like Kelly don’t play well in games. We’ll make up a list of possible names later on in the preseason.