It sure seems like Karl Joseph won’t become a Pittsburgh Steeler. The team brought him in for a visit last Thursday and as of Monday morning, no deal has been announced. Joseph’s evidently not interested in playing for the Kevin Colbert special “please oh please take the league minimum.”
And so the Steelers will continue their search in adding safety depth. The question is – what’s the answer?
Because the depth on this team isn’t great right now. In fact, it wasn’t great last year either. At least in 2020 there was Sean Davis and Jordan Dangerfield. Davis inked a deal with the Colts and Dangerfield remains unsigned. Pittsburgh did add Miles Killebrew and called him a DB in their press release announcing the move but the few snaps on defense he has seen have come as a linebacker, not a safety.
Right now, the Steelers are banking on sophomore Antoine Brooks Jr. to be the backup SS. And maybe he can. But he’s largely unproven, only logging serious defensive playing time in one game last season.
The losses of Mike Hilton and Steven Nelson created a domino effect. I’ll do a video on this later in the offseason but making Cam Sutton a more stagnant player hurts depth too. Last year, if God forbid Minkah Fitzpatrick went down, Sutton was probably your backup FS. Now, he’s your starting right cornerback. In theory, they could move him again but that would be replacing a starter with another starter, which plays musical chairs with the rest of the cornerback room. Pittsburgh doesn’t like making those changes with their offensive line. They shouldn’t be content doing the same with their secondary.
With Joseph presumably out of the mix, the Steelers could turn to the rest of the free agent market. But the options, as you’d expect, don’t look great. There’s Tre Boston, who has seemed to play well but has forever been bouncing around from team-to-team on one-year contracts. Pittsburgh’s been keen on adding under-30 players throughout Colbert’s history. So Will Parks, of Xavier Grimble fame, might be the best name of those left. Miami’s Kavon Frazier is an even less-inspiring option. Blake Countess is a super-sleeper but we’re scratching the bottom of the barrel too.
There is, of course, the draft. Safety isn’t a particularly strong class but the team needs bodies here. Teryl Austin was at TCU’s Pro Day. They could take a big swing with Trevon Moehrig in the first round or hit a single with Ar’Darius Washington in the middle rounds. Austin also attended Virginia Tech’s workout, possibly putting Divine Deable in play. Or Georgia’s Richard LeCounte; new DBs coach Grady Brown attended that workout.
The point is this. Safety depth can’t be ignored. The Steelers have done their best rolling the dice behind their starters for a couple seasons now. They’ve been lucky Terrell Edmunds and Fitzpatrick have been remarkably durable. Eventually, that luck will run out, and this team will need a Plan B.