Secondary is a primary concern for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2016 NFL Draft.
- But which part of the defensive backfield should take priority safety or cornerback?
Steelers Nation will need to wait until the Steelers 2016 Draft Needs Matrix is published for Steel Curtain Rising’s answer to that question, but today we’ll take a look at the Steelers 2016 draft needs at safety.
Steelers Depth Chart @ Safety Entering the 2016 NFL Draft – the Starter
The Steelers 2014 offseason began with Ryan Clark on his way out and Troy Polamalu entering the last summer of his NFL life and Kevin Colbert reacted with an uncharacteristic move big money free agent signing of Mike Mitchell.
- Michael Mitchell failed to deliver much splash during his first year with the Steelers.
The word was that Mitchell was both unaccustomed to playing with Polamalu and that he was playing injured. A year ago that sounded like coaches talk, but in the time since then he’s recorded 3 interceptions, forced two fumbles and recovered two more. Mitchell also showed an ability to come up with big plays when the Steelers needed them.
- Penciled in opposite Mitchell is Robert Golden.
In his four years in Pittsburgh, Golden is known more for his efforts as a special team’s captain, but he did see time in Dick LeBeau’s defense as a rookie in 2012. Golden was expected to push for time after that, but the push never emerged. However, in 2015 Golden’s number got called when injuries took Will Allen out of the lineup.
Golden responded with solid play, and later in the season came up with a crucial interception that helped propel the Steelers over the Bengals late in the season.
Steelers Depth Cart @ Safety Entering the 2016 NFL Draft – Backups
When I first sat down to analize the Steelers draft needs at safety, I asked myself “Does Pittsburgh have anyone else at Safety besides Mitchell and Golden….. They don’t….” Figuring the Steelers had signed a couple of three safeties to future’s contracts, I double checked Steelers.com.
- Then I discovered the Steelers actually have two more safties under contract, and ones that Steelers fans will recognize.
The first is Shamarko Thomas, the second is Ross Ventrone. The Steelers once thought of Shamarko Thomas as Troy Polamalu’s heir apparent, thinking so much of him that they traded 2014’s 3rd round pick to move up to get Thomas in the 4th round of 2013 NFL Draft. When the pick was in, Carnell Lake explained that 2-3 inches were all that kept Shamarko from being a first round pick (note, he said the same thing about Senquez Golson….)
- It is safe to say that Mike Tomlin, Kevin Colbert, and Art Rooney II wish they had that one back.
The fact that Shamarko Thomas failed to start when he was supposed to is not particularly damming. But the fact that Steelers only played Shamarko Thomas in 20 defensive snaps – that’s less than Cortez Allen – shows how little confidence the team has in him.
Officially, Ross Ventrone is listed as a safety, but he did not log a single snap with the defense in 2015. For the record the Steelers also have Ray Vinpal at safety and Jordan Dangerfield. Dangerfield has spent time on the practice squad of the Buffalo Bills, and spent time on the Steelers practice squad in both 2014 and 2015.
It has been rumored that Doran Grant could transition to safety in 2015.
Steelers 2016 Draft Need at Safety
The Steelers have one proven NFL safety, another one with potential, and a special teamer, and one draft day disappointment.
- Which is to say, that the Pittsburgh Steelers have a glaring need at safety.
It is not inconceivable that the Steelers could find their starting safety on draft day, and that’s not something you want to say about a team that fancies itself as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Even if Robert Golden does meet expectations, the Steelers still need depth as they now have no one to step him.
Therefore the Steelers 2016 draft need at safety must be considered High.