The Pittsburgh Steelers signed two safeties to deals worth about as much or more per year than what they evidently offered their own starting strong safety, Terrell Edmunds, who opted for a small one-year deal to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles.
While his decision was likely fueled at least in part by a desire to be on a team with a greater chance of winning the Super Bowl, it leaves the Steelers in a somewhat uncertain position with Damontae Kazee and Keanu Neal, neither of whom necessarily profile as long-term starters.
It makes one wonder if the team isn’t strongly considering finding its long-term answer in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. But if that is the case, then some think they would have trouble doing so. While this class is being lauded for its depth, that depth doesn’t seem to apply to this particular area.
“This is a bad year to need a safety in the NFL Draft”, veteran scout and NFL analyst Daniel Jeremiah observed via Twitter on Thursday night. “Paper thin”.
To use one measurement, Pro Football Focus lists only one safety in its top 50 prospects, and only six in the top 100. Far and away the best safety in the class, by consensus opinion, seems to be Alabama’s Brian Branch, the only one who has a realistic shot of being drafted in the first round. PFF ranks him as the 17th overall prospect.
Not another one shows up on the board until 64 with Antonio Johnson out of Texas A&M making an appearance. He is followed not long after at 69 by Anthony Johnson Jr. out of Iowa State and Alabama’s Jordan Battle at 72, with Jammie Robinson from Florida State at 75.
Assuming that they don’t go for Branch in the first round, should the Steelers entertain any of these options in the second round, or would they be better served finding superior value at other positions? After all, they did sign Kazee and Neal, so that doesn’t make the position an immediate pressing concern, even if they might prefer to see their long-term future option in the present.
One option that might be suitable in round three or four (should he last that long) is Ronnie Hickman out of Ohio State, if they do want to use a draft pick on a safety this year without using a premium draft choice. They have three selections in the top two rounds, and ideally all three of them would hit on day-one starters.
It’s actually not uncommon at all for draft classes to be regarded as being on the weaker side at safety. Indeed, except for the top end of the position, it often seems to be undervalued generally speaking. Just look at the Steelers’ own dealings there recently minus All-Pro Minkah Fitzpatrick. For Edmunds to have to play for under $3 million a year I think says something about how the league values the ‘middle class’ safety today.