Though it became clear after the team officially lost SS Terrell Edmunds to the Philadelphia Eagles, Mike Tomlin confirmed that the Pittsburgh Steelers will add a safety some time over the next month. Be it free agency or the draft, the team will look to add secondary help.
Speaking at a Monday morning breakfast at the NFL’s annual Owners Meetings, Tomlin said the team will look to add though he also pointed out that new CB Patrick Peterson could play some safety this year. Here’s what Tomlin said per Steelers.com’s Dale Lolley.
Based off this tweet, there aren’t any specifics around how Peterson could fill that role. But it’s not hard to imagine. Post-snap rotation on third downs and obvious pass situations is something the Steelers routinely did last year with Cam Sutton, leaning on his versatility, and it’s an idea Peterson embraced after being signed. In his first press conference, he said he hoped to do more in the Steelers’ defense than the Arizona Cardinals or Minnesota Vikings allowed him to do, opting to strictly keep him at corner.
As published later on Steelers.com, here’s what Tomlin had to say about the group.
“The free agency process is still ongoing, and our draft prep is going well. We’re gonna add to that bunch certainly. By what means is to be determined. But there’s incredible candidates out there in both pools.”
Here’s more from Tomlin on Peterson per the PPG’s Gerry Dulac.
Still, Peterson will only be able to help fill those roles in small ways. The Steelers seem to lack a starting strong safety on the roster. While Damontae Kazee has reportedly been re-signed (the team still hasn’t made it official), it’s hard to expect him to be a 1,000-snap, every down guy. Though he plays bigger than his frame, asking a guy of his size to play an in-the-box role is asking a lot. Ideally, Kazee can replace much of the versatility Sutton offered with the versatility to align all over the secondary.
The free agent pool of strong safeties is relatively limited. As we wrote, Taylor Rapp is the best name out there but it’s unclear what his price tag is. Other options include the likes of Ronnie Harrison, who has played in the AFC North for the Cleveland Browns the last three seasons. Safety is considered one of the draft’s weakest position groups. The top name is Alabama’s Brian Branch, who could be in play for the team at #17, but from there, there is significant falloff. Other names include Texas A&M’s Antonio Johnson, Alabama’s Jordan Battle, and Boise State’s JL Skinner.