The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Curtis Riley will make the Steelers’ 53-man roster.
Explanation: The Steelers added the veteran safety once training camp already began, after spending his career bouncing around the league. He was a 16-game starter for the Giants in 2018, accounting for nearly all of his career starts over four seasons.
It may be as much or more of a comment about the quality of depth available to the Steelers at the safety position, but Riley was immediately probably the third-best defensive safety on the roster when he was signed, behind only their starters, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds.
The biggest selling point for him, however, is the simple fact that he is an actual free safety, and basically the only safety on the roster other than Fitzpatrick whose skill set lends itself to playing that position. That can’t be said for Jordan Dangerfield, Marcus Allen, or Antoine Brooks. Edmunds could be capable of playing free safety, but he’s the starting strong safety.
While he has some major liabilities, such as his tackling, and his coverage numbers are nothing special, he does have the ability to be around the ball, with five interceptions in his career, including four during his once season as a full-time starter for New York. The fact that he also plays special teams (262 snaps last season) seals the deal.
Riley might be the most experienced safety, but he doesn’t have that experience in the Steelers’ system. There are plenty of veterans who have come here only to fade out and never play again, from Leonard Pope and Knile Davis to Stevan Ridley and Nat Berhe.
Jordan Dangerfield is a lock to make the team, as much as some may not want to believe that, and the team seems pretty eager to keep Antoine Brooks around, seeing him as a hybrid type of player, even if he is a rookie sixth-round pick. Marcus Allen and his ability to develop is a toss-up, but so is the prospect of the team ever carrying five safeties, which they didn’t do last year. Especially with an increased role in mind for Cameron Sutton, and the fact that both he and Mike Hilton have safety capability, Riley is far from a lock to stay in Pittsburgh.