Steven Nelson has only been in Pittsburgh for one season, but he already feels the brotherhood of his teammates, especially those in the secondary. Even while everyone in in quarantine at some level around the country—Nelson actually lives in Arizona during the offseason—he has found ways to keep in contact with his brothers in the secondary.
“We talk here and there, just checking on one another just like a brother would, making sure each other is okay, first of all”, he recently told Missi Matthews during a Skype interview on the team’s website. “I spoke to Joe maybe last week a few times, just talking about what’s going on. Staying in touch. I talked to Terrell, Mike, and all those guys, just keeping it a tight-knit group”.
While Nelson was only signed via free agency last year, he actually isn’t the newest face in the secondary. That would be Minkah Fitzpatrick, the third-year safety who was acquired in-season via trade in September.
Terrell Edmunds is also a newer face, with two years under his belt, as well as in the system, but in actuality, the entire starting secondary has no more than three years in Pittsburgh. The longest-lived members of the group are Mike Hilton and Joe Haden, who both came to the team in 2017.
Hilton, in actuality, was originally added to the team’s practice squad late in the 2016 season, but he would not be heard from until the following year, when he emerged as the team’s starting nickel cornerback by the middle of the opening game. He was retained this offseason on a second-round restricted free agent tender.
As for the rest of the starters, all of them are under contract for at least two more years. both Nelson and Haden have two years remaining on their free agent deals, while both Edmunds and Fitzpatrick have two years left on their rookie contracts, and for each, there is the option of picking up the fifth-year option.
Arguably, communication is more important in the secondary than it is anywhere else in the football field. A blown coverage due to a player not having the right assignment could more easily make or break a game than just about any other miscue.
And those off-field relationship do extend to on-field play, as a number of players have attested to over the years. Even last season, multiple members of the secondary commented upon how they were a closer-knit group than they had been in the past, and that it was showing up in their play. The 2019 season was their best in many years as a group, and that wasn’t due strictly to the influx of new talent, but also their relationship with one another.