Putting together a team is by no means solely nor primarily about what you are able to add to the group year in and year out. More than anything, it’s about the pieces that you are able to keep together for a period of years, acquiring talent and giving them the structure to develop together into a cohesive unit.
By and large, the Pittsburgh Steelers do this better than most, and they return among the most snaps from the 2019 season as they head into this year, but they have still lost some significant players from a year ago, some of whom have been with the team for a while, like Ramon Foster, Javon Hargrave, Mark Barron, Anthony Chickillo, and others.
Now that we’ve introduced you to all of the new faces that the Steelers have added to the team since the end of last season, it’s time to take stock of who is gone since then, and what their departure—whether by the team’s will or not—will impact their success or failure in 2020 and beyond.
Player: S Kameron Kelly
Years Played: 1 (1 in Pittsburgh)
Snaps Played: 131 (131 career)
While he didn’t quite manage to finish the season with the team, I still think Kameron Kelly’s contributions were significant enough to acknowledge in this column. A first-year player last year who played in the AAF and was signed to a contract on the 90-man roster in April when that league closed down, he not only made the roster but become the team’s top backup safety.
In fact, due to injuries sustained by Sean Davis in the preseason—a friendly fire injury was his last undoing—he sat out the regular season opener, giving Kelly the chance to start that game, the first of his NFL career. Of course, it came again Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, and it didn’t go particularly well.
On the year, in fact, Pro Football Reference credits him with allowing 10 receptions on 10 targets for 141 yards and two touchdowns. He did manage to come down with one interception on the year, off of a deflection from, if memory serves, Minkah Fitzpatrick.
If it wasn’t for the team’s trade for Fitzpatrick after Davis’ season-ending injury in Week Two, Kelly was likely going to be the safety who would have moved into the starting lineup on a full-time basis. Just think about that timeline for a second.
Even after bringing in Fitzpatrick to take over for Davis at free safety, Kelly continued to play for much of the year as a dime back. He also logged 174 snaps on special teams. However, after he was arrested in the middle of December, the Steelers promptly released him.
The San Diego St. graduate never hooked up with any other team, understandably. As for the Steelers, they are still looking for safety depth, retaining Jordan Dangerfield and Marcus Allen, the latter of whom was on the practice squad in 2019 until Kelly’s arrest. This offseason, they drafted Antoine Brooks in the sixth round, and since training camp opened, signed veteran Curtis Riley.