With training camp just around the corner, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2021 season.
Unlike last season, which was carried out through a pandemic, things should return much to normal this year, which should help provide us with clearer insights into where people stand. The return of the preseason in particular is a crucial window into operations that we lacked a year ago.
Up for Grabs: Backup Job
In the Mix: Antoine Brooks Jr., Arthur Maulet, Tre Norwood, Lamont Wade, Donovan Stiner
The backup outside linebacker discussion changed suddenly yesterday. Will we find the same happen for the backup safety discussion in the coming days? The Steelers added veteran edge rusher Melvin Ingram yesterday, but it wouldn’t at all be surprising if they’re still looking at safety depth after previously kicking the tires on Malik Hooker.
Barring such a signing, however, the Steelers are left in the unenviable position we see lain out above. While they have an above average starting duo in Minkah Fitzpatrick (a two-time first-team All-Pro) and Terrell Edmunds, who has improved every season so far, the depth leaves much to be desired.
At least for the time being, it sounds as though Antoine Brooks Jr., a sixth-round pick out of Maryland last year who spent most of the season on the practice squad, is the most likely to see the field. But that’s because, reportedly, he has been working in the slot, so he could feature as a nickel or dime defender.
Would he also be the top safety to come in should Fitzpatrick, or at least Edmunds, suffer an injury, however? Last season, they had Sean Davis for that, a former second-round pick who had experience starting at both strong and free safety.
The only experienced depth they have this year, at the moment, is Arthur Maulet, signed shortly after the draft. According to Pro Football Focus, he played about 100 or so snaps at safety last year, but was mostly in the slot. That was his first in-game experience at safety in the NFL, including the preseason.
The rest of the competition is all rookies. Tre Norwood was drafted in the seventh round. Lamont Wade and Donovan Stiner were both signed as college free agents. There were some positive reports about Norwood and Wade that I’ve seen out of spring workouts, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot. And it would certainly be asking a lot of such a rookie to step in as a top backup right away.