Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: S John Battle
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The Steelers’ failure to address the safety position thus far in the offseason is improving the odds of first-year former LSU safety John Battle being able to make the 53-man roster later this year.
Pittsburgh entered the 2020 season with four safeties on its 53-man roster (though they exited with five). Two of the original four are gone, at least so far, in the case of one. Behind Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds were Jordan Dangerfield, who remains an unsigned free agent, and the returning Sean Davis, who signed with the Indianapolis Colts this offseason.
Seventh-round pick Antoine Brooks would eventually find his way to the 53-man roster. Even accepting that, it still leaves Battle as one of four safeties on the team right now. That’s if you exclude Miles Killebrew, signed from the Detroit Lions, whom the team lists as a linebacker, and is almost exclusively a special teams player based on his recent usage.
It’s also worth noting that the secondary depth overall has taken a hit with the losses of Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton without their being replaced. That’s four of ultimately 11 members of the secondary from last season who are no longer here, making it more likely for somebody like Battle to work his way in.
Originally undrafted out of LSU in 2019, he spent time that year with the Buccaneers and the Jets. He signed a futures contract at the end of that season with the Steelers. He spent the entirety of this past season on their practice squad, so he does have a year learning their system.
Given the lack of current depth, safety is obviously an area that the Steelers would like to try to address between now and the start of the regular season, either through the draft or veteran free agency, if not both. As things stand a week out from the draft, Battle’s odds of making the team have improved based on the events of the offseason thus far.