If you’re like me you’d love the chance to be a General Manager. We all have our opinions on players throughout the draft process and throughout the season of who we would prefer to have on the team or active roster. I thought this might be a fun process to look at a group of players give some background information on each player and see who you would keep.
I’ll give you three players either from a position group or some other roster scenario and you decide which two you will keep and one player to cut. At the end of this process we’ll have a good idea of who you think should be on the roster.
We’ve made to the last position group. The last line of defense and much like the linebacker groups its very top heavy. The starters are locked in and both had strong seasons last year.
The Steelers went off script last year trading a first round pick to add Minkah Fitzpatrick and we are all happy they did. That addition turned the free safety position from a minus into a plus.
The depth behind the starters however is still sorely lacking. I was hoping they would draft a safety that could play free safety for depth but unfortunately they did not. They don’t have a true free safety to backup Fitzpatrick and it’s likely that role would be filled by Cameron Sutton or Mike Hilton if needed. They do have several candidates to back up the strong safety so we’ll take a look at those below.
We’re going to keep two for the roster this week with the cut player going to the practice squad.
Minkah Fitzpatrick was added early in the season last year and we saw what a difference adding a player with his skill set can do for the defense. He made is presence known right away in week three with forced fumble, interception and 5 tackles. The production continued and his ability to patrol the back of the defense allowed the team to be more aggressive and produce big numbers. Fitzpatrick finished with 57 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 5 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries and two touchdowns while playing 100% of the plays in 12 of 14 games and no less than 97% in the other 2. I can’t wait to see the encore.
Terrell Edmunds made strides in his role of strong safety and improved his play especially near the line of scrimmage. He’s still improving in pass coverage and has yet to make an impression with his ball skills but his tackle numbers improved. He finished second on the team in tackles with 105 including 71 solo tackles which was also second. He and Fitzpatrick form a very young tandem that should continue to impress and improve in the years to come.
Jordan Dangerfield – Resilient comes to mind when talking about Dangerfield. He has been cut/released/removed from the roster as many times as Ferris Bueller skipped school. Nine times. You have to respect the work ethic.
On the positive side, he’s a veteran with over 1,000 defense and special team snaps combined over the last three years. He played 71% of the special team snap last year and contributed with 12 special teams tackles which was good for a tie for 7th in the NFL. He knows the scheme and can step in if needed.
On the negative side, since Edmunds came to town he has only played 81 snaps on defense and only 6 last year. He doesn’t have the positional flexibility to play free safety and even last year others like Kameron Kelly were able to come in and get more meaningful snaps.
Marcus Allen – The 5th round pick in 2018 has struggled to make a positive impression with the coaching staff in his two years. He was a candidate, and still is right now, for the hybrid linebacker role after coming out of college as an aggressive big hitter.
On the positive side, like others we’ve discussed he has a leg up with the unknown offseason. He’s entering year three and has a handle on schemes. There is competition for the roster but not a heck of lot.
On the negative side, in two seasons he’s barely been able to see the field on defense or special teams. He was also unable to keep Kelly off the roster last year and spent most of the year on the practice squad.
Antoine Brooks, Jr. – Drafted in the 6th round in 2019 Brooks added to the list of the physical, hybrid type safeties. He plays with energy, physicality and fits as a box safety that has experience in different coverages and blitzing.
On the positive side, the Steelers have been trying to find someone to fill that hybrid linebacker role, first with Barron, and now with others getting a shot. Brooks fits what they want. He has a lot of collegiate starting experience and will compete for a special teams role.
On the negative side, is this another effort to put a square peg in a round hybrid hole? The limited off season practices are going to hurt him. There are already lots of physical safeties on the roster. Can he separate himself from those guys?
Time to Choose
The lack of talent and experience is behind the starters is thin. There are few others on the roster (John Battle, Tyree Kinnel) that could make a run and it’s likely the Steelers will keep an eye out for cuts in the preseason or possible trade candidates.
On the staff’s way to early rosters, Dave kept Dangerfield and Brooks with Allen on the practice squad. Matthew kept all three on his roster. Alex kept Dangerfield, Brooks and Kinnel on his roster with John Battle on the PS.
I think Dangerfield is a lock and despite Allen having the experience I think Brooks may have a better chance to stick.
Previous Roster Decisions
QB (3) – Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Devlin Hodges
RB/FB (5) – James Conner, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Derek Watt, Jaylen Samuels
WR (6) – JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Deon Cain, Saeed Blacknall
TE (3) – Vince McDonald, Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry
OL (8) – Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Kevin Dotson, Chukwuma Okorafor, Stefen Wisniewski, Zach Banner, Matt Feiler, Alejandro Villanueva
DL (6) – Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Tyson Alualu, Isaiah Buggs, Chris Wormley, Daniel McCullers
ILB (4) – Devin Bush, Vince Williams, Ulysees Gilbert, Robert Spillane
OLB (4) – T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Ola Adeniyi, Alex Highsmith
DB (6) – Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Justin Layne, Alexander Myres
Practice Squad Candidates – Paxton Lynch, Carlos Davis, Henry Mondeaux, Josiah Coatney, Kerrith Whyte, Trey Edmunds, Tuzar Skipper, James Lockhart, Christian Scotland-Williamson, Kevin Rader, Derwin Gray, J.C. Hassenauer, Trajan Bandy