One man’s adversity is another’s opportunity in the game of football. And that opportunity doesn’t always necessarily have to come at the expense of the individual creating that opportunity through adversity. That is what we are seeing so far in training camp with the Pittsburgh Steelers at free safety.
Fourth-year veteran Sean Davis is entrenched as the starter there, but with him nursing injuries for most of the journey—starting to make his way back as of today—that has provided first-year safety Kameron Kelly with the opportunity to climb up in the pecking order and put himself in position to make a push for a spot on the 53-man roster.
For most of the offseason, it has, or had, been presumed that Kelly was in the mix for the number five safety role, assuming that the Steelers even attempted to carry a fifth safety. With Davis and Terrell Edmunds in the starting lineup, it appeared almost a given that second-year Marcus Allen and veteran Jordan Dangerfield would assume the top backup roles, and anybody else who put themselves in the mix would be a bonus.
But Kelly has separated himself from the rest of the deep depth at the position, consisting largely of rookie college free agents P.J. Locke and Dravon Askew-Henry, being elected to run with the first-team defense at free safety in Davis’ absence. He has been among the talks of camp, and he was again just now when Head Coach Mike Tomlin was asked about him and what has jumped out.
“It’s due to the injury to Sean Davis” that he has been provided with this stage to stand out, Tomlin said. “He’s getting an increased opportunity. It’s kind of what I was talking about. The thing I will say about him is he’s proven to be ready for the opportunity. He’s highly conditioned; he’s making good use of it. That’s just an example of what I was talking about when you get an opportunity to step up due to others”.
Kelly hasn’t necessarily been very flashy in taking over the free safety spot, though that is not always the easiest place to do so, especially if the quarterbacks are not really pushing the ball down the field. But he also has not stood out negatively.
Getting the chance to run with the first team in practice is one thing, but it still ultimately comes down to what he will put on tape in the preseason. At this juncture, it seems likely that he will remain in the starting lineup in the team’s first game a few days from now.
If he can display a comfort level and preparedness with the starters in an in-game setting, that would go a long way toward providing assurance in the decision-makers minds about his viability as a defensive piece. Even with that said, however, his roster spot must still also be provided for via use on special teams.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 6, 2019