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.
Position: Dime Defender
Up for Grabs: Sub-Package Role
In the Mix: Cameron Sutton, Justin Layne, Jordan Dangerfield, Marcus Allen, Antoine Brooks
Basically, everybody who is not a starting member of the secondary is in this conversation—and there is admittedly a clear favorite. In fact, the particular circumstances of this training cam pare likely to result in it being made a runaway for Cameron Sutton, who has by far the most playing experience and the best reputation on the team.
And, of yeah, he’s already played in the dimebacker role, though if you want to get technical, both Marcus Allen and Jordan Dangerfield have as well. Allen played some dimebacker during his rookie season in the late-season game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
The others are rookies, or might as well be. Brooks was a sixth-round pick in 2020, a hard-hitting safety out of Maryland. Justin Layne at least has a season under his belt, and even worked his way into a regular role on special teams at the end of his rookie season, but he is still raw as a cornerback, having converted to the defensive side of the ball when he got to college.
Given that there will be no preseason, and training camp will be pretty limited in terms of contact, I think we can all but rule out a player like Brooks earning that role for the start of the season. And it’s hard to argue the case for Layne being favored over Sutton.
It is a discussion to be had, however, pertaining to the value of the cornerback versus the safety as the number six defensive back, and in fact, historically, the Steelers have greatly favored using a third safety over a fourth cornerback.
But Dangerfield has been relegated almost to special teamer status at this point in his career, while Allen spent most of last season on the practice squad, which is not a good sign. Then again, the former looks to be heading into this season as the number three safety. And as for Allen, you never know when a young player is going to grow. He said when he was called up late last year that Tomlin praised him for the work he put in during the regular season on the practice squad.