At least from the outside, the Pittsburgh Steelers entered the offseason with questions about their depth at safety. While they solidified the starting positions after acquiring Minkah Fitzpatrick to pair with Terrell Edmunds, the only players of note behind their starters, following the departure of Sean Davis, were Jordan Dangerfield and Marcus Allen.
Dangerfield, a former undrafted free agent, has been with the team in some capacity since 2014. He has been on the 53-man roster in three years and started two games during that time, both in 2016. He hasn’t had much of a defensive role since then.
Allen was drafted in the fifth round in 2018. Since then, he has hardly played, and even spent most of 2019 on the practice squad. He was only called up after Kameron Kelly, who won a roster spot ahead of him, was arrested.
Fitzpatrick, nevertheless, expressed confidence in the safeties playing behind him, as he told reporters last week while speaking to the local media during a conference call. “Both of them are very talented guys. Both of them are competitors in practice”, he said.
“They’re always going hard, they’re always doing what they can to make the team better, whether that’s competing against our offense or whether it’s just making me better, because I know that they’re both behind me and pushing and fighting for a spot”, he added. “They’re both talented guys, both guys that can make plays if they’re asked to”.
Fortunately for the Steelers, neither reserve safety really had to be called upon to play last season, because their two starters remained healthy throughout their tenure on the roster. To this group, they’ve seen added Antoine Brooks, a sixth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but as a rookie in a shortened offseason, it’s hard to say what his level of preparedness for the 2020 season will be.
A lot of fans wanted to see the team address the safety position earlier in the draft, but even earlier this year, they have talked about the capability of defensive backs like Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton of playing safety, so perhaps they view these players as part of the safety depth when it comes to discussing the position as a whole.
While the team has added other safeties, as futures players, as former XFL players, and as undrafted free agents, it remains the case that their depth behind their starters is pretty much unproven. It’s nice that Fitzpatrick believes in their ability to play, and granted, he sees them in practice, but I’m sure it won’t ease the minds of many fans.