Curtis Riley is arguably the second best FS on the roster with very few other options, seemingly brought on to add depth behind Minkah Fitzpatrick. But don’t discount Riley as the next man up at SS either.
The PPG’s Brian Batko shared a worthwhile nugget of information in yesterday’s practice report. Riley reportedly had a good practice, including a pass breakup but it was where he was running that was most notable.
“Signed by the Steelers at the start of training camp, Riley got a chance with the first-team defense in practice Friday afternoon and made good use of it, strong-arming a catch away from tight end Eric Ebron over the middle.”
So that’s Riley running first team with Terrell Edmunds day-to-day with a minor injury. Meaning he leapfrogged Jordan Dangerfield, Marcus Allen, and Antoine Brooks Jr, all classic box types who fit best at strong safety. This info is worth an obvious disclaimer. It’s one practice, we didn’t get to see things for ourselves, perhaps there was a rotation of reps, and the team knows a lot more about Dangerfield and Allen. The more reps for Riley, the more they can learn about his strengths, weaknesses, and how he fits into the system. Asked by reporters about his place in the pecking order, Riley brushed the notion off, focusing on just making plays no matter where he’s at in the lineup.
“I don’t really don’t care if I run with the ones, the twos and threes, whatever,” he said via Steelers.com. “Whatever reps I get, I just got to do my job and make sure that I’m out there communicating to everybody. So it doesn’t really matter if I’m with the ones, twos or threes.
But Riley’s promotion speaks to depth issues at the position. That a street free agent added right before the start of camp may end up being the team’s best option at either safety spot. Riley brings plenty of NFL experience Mike Tomlin cited yesterday, something the rest of the group doesn’t quite have. Jordan Dangerfield is the most veteran backup safety but has only logged 81 defensive snaps the last two years. Marcus Allen’s logged 17 defensive snaps while Brooks is a 6th round rookie who lost out on an entire offseason.
Despite his late arrival to the team, that may give Riley the edge heading into the season.