With our series breaking down each position on the roster completed, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2020 season.
This is not a conventional offseason, of course, for obvious reasons, which is likely to play a role in many of these battles, some in ways that we might not foresee. Generally speaking, it should favor players who have greater experience, but there’s a reason these questions are left unanswered until we get on the field.
Up for Grabs: Top Backup Strong Safety
In the Mix: Jordan Dangerfield, Marcus Allen, Antoine Brooks, Tyree Kinnel, John Battle, etc.
Perhaps it’s fair to consider this job wide open. And I’m separating strong safety from free safety, because it’s very possible that we would have a different player, perhaps even a cornerback, play free safety if there is an injury.
Terrell Edmunds has been the Steelers’ starting strong safety for the past two years since he was drafted. He has hardly come off the field at all since then. In fact, his greatest attribute so far has been his endurance and durability. But you always need a backup.
Who will that be? Of the group, Jordan Dangerfield is the only one with meaningful playing time, and in fact started two games at strong safety back in 2016. He has also been in the Steelers’ system on and off going back to 2014, so he has been around the block, and in terms of knowing the defense should be considered the most reliable.
Still, in 2018, the Steelers allowed a rookie fifth-round pick in Marcus Allen play over him when they needed some snaps. Then again, he spent most of last season on the practice squad. But would he have been there with Dangerfield ahead of him if not for special teams?
Then there’s Antoine Brooks, the rookie sixth-round pick. The Steelers like a lot of things about him. He’s intelligent, and he’s a big hitter. That’s what you want out of your strong safety, even in this era of the game. But he’s also a rookie, in an abbreviated offseason. It’s hard to ask him to be a snap away from starting.
That also applies to players like Tyree Kinnel and John Battle, who while not rookies are still first-year players without in-season NFL experience. But you do have to account for the possibility of a rising player like Kameron Kelly was last year.