2023 Offseason Questions: What Is Steelers’ Plan At Strong Safety?

The Steelers are now in their offseason after failing to reach the playoffs in 2022, coming up just a game short of sneaking in as the seventh seed. They needed help in week 18 and only got some of it, so instead they sat home and watched the playoffs with the rest of us.

On tap is figuring out how to be on the field in January and February instead of being a spectator. The Steelers started out 2-6, digging a hole that proved too deep to dig out of even if they managed to go 7-2 in the second half of the year.

Starting from the end of the regular season and leading up to the beginning of the 2023 season, there are plenty of questions that need answered. We’ll try to frame the conversation in relevant ways as long as you stick with us throughout this offseason, as we have for many years.

Question: What is the Steelers’ plan for the strong safety position?

The Steelers re-signed safety Damontae Kazee to a two-year, $6 million contract. They then watched starting strong safety sign a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles for less than $3 million, including incentives. And perhaps their best alternative option, Taylor Rapp, was also signed to a cheaper one-year deal.

So if the Steelers’ intention isn’t to start Kazee at strong safety—which doesn’t appear to be the message they’re sending, at least overtly—then exactly what is it? And why were they willing to pay Kazee $3 million per season but not Edmunds, or Rapp?

Asked yesterday what the Steelers’ plan is at safety, head coach Mike Tomlin admitted that “it’s in development”. But why pay a safety you apparently view as less than a 1,000-snap player more than what your former starter earned on the open market? Was it simply a matter of wanting to go in another direction?

Time will tell what that direction might be, since the Steelers don’t seem to be speaking in starter terms with Kazee. They’ve talked about being “comfortable” with players like Chris Wormley and Mason Rudolph being starters, yet we haven’t heard this particular C word with him.

There is still roughly a month before the draft, and there will be safeties available as rookies, but would the Steelers want a rookie starter at strong safety? And would they want to dedicate a high draft pick to the position?

They did sign Kazee after the 2022 NFL Draft. The remaining available free agency market at safety is not exactly robust, with the majority of the more notably players being over 30 years old. I’m hesitant to even put a name out there. Even a candidate like Nasir Adderley recently retired at 25. Older candidates could include Duron Harmon, Rodney McLeod, or Eric Rowe, unless Adrian Amos’ price comes down after playing on a $9 million a year deal.

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