The Pittsburgh Steelers have spent the majority of the salary cap era carefully massaging the perimeters of cap compliance, and making use of numerous tools to do so in ways that they viewed as maximizing their roster for each season.
This year will be somewhat different, as they actually have salary cap space, and the means of creating a healthy amount more without making any significantly painful moves. Still, they have a number of important decisions to make, including whether or re-sign their own free agents or look for alternatives on the market.
One decision is about strong safety. Reportedly, the Steelers are interested in bringing back Terrell Edmunds, who has been their starter for the past four seasons after being drafted in the first round. But they are preparing for the potentiality that they won’t be able to do so at a price they’re comfortable with, and consider Tampa Bay’s Jordan Whitehead.
Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus just so happens to see Whitehead as one of the best free agent fits for the Steelers this offseason, and not without reason. Indeed, I’m sure many Steelers fans would rather see them sign him rather than retain Edmunds. Linsey writes:
Few safeties have been better at getting downhill and making plays against the run than Whitehead the past two years in Tampa Bay. He ranks in the 95th percentile of all safeties in run-defense grade and 97th percentile in run-stop percentage since 2020. He is best suited as a strong safety in a defense that plays a lot of single-high coverages. Things are trending in the opposite direction across the league, but the Steelers are one of the teams who still fit that bill.
It just so happens that they could be in need of a safety to pair with Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Whitehead has high school and collegiate ties to Pittsburgh.
One thing I’m confident in is that the Steelers will address the safety position in free agency, and not the draft. That is too significant a hole to leave open, yet not one significant enough that they would want to spend a premium draft resource to address.
Whitehead was drafted in the fourth round by the Buccaneers in 2018, the year the Steelers drafted Edmunds in the first. He has been a full-time starter nearly his whole career, producing 292 tackles with 22 tackles for loss, five interceptions, 25 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, two recoveries, and two sacks.
The former Panther and Central Valley High product would indeed be a good fit in the Steel City. Even though he is undersized, he is physical, and it hasn’t shown to be a serious issue over the course of his career. This is certainly a very realistic option, whom Alex Kozora listed on his defensive free agent wishlist (spoiler alert if you’re reading this early).