Safety has been one of the most intriguing areas on the depth chart during this off season. The Steelers said goodbye to a former first round draft pick in the form of Terrell Edmunds, resigned an older veteran, brought in one free agent and made a trade that could someday impact the position.
So how does all of this impact their approach to the 2023 NFL Draft? Let’s find out.
Steelers Depth Cart at Safety: The Starters
In Minkah Fitzpatrick the Steelers have a safety who is already adding to the legacy left by the likes of Donnie Shell, Carnell Lake, Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu.
By any measure, Minkah Fitzpatrick is a play maker. In just four years he has 17 interceptions, including three pick sixes. And as true playmakers do, he makes them at timely moments in games. Just ask Joe Burrow who threw right to Fitzpatrick on the second play of the 2022 season.
Fitzpatrick is far more than a ball hawk. He comes away with deflections with the game is on the line, manages to make tackles in bounds when the clock is running, and is on the field wherever the action is.
Starting opposite Fitzpatrick is Damontae Kazee. Kazee is new to Pittsburgh but he had 2 interceptions in 9 games for the Steelers last year, and he made those at critical moments of the game. Kazee’s durability is an issue, however.
Steelers Depth Chart at Safety: The Backups
The Steelers have also signed Keanu Neal. Like Kazee, Neal has durability issues, but he also brings 80 games and 61 starts of experience to the Steelers. With his resume, Neal could conceivably push Kazee for the starting job, but his contract suggests the Steelers are not projecting him as a starter.
The Steelers also have Tre Norwood the proverbial “Swiss Army” knife. Norwood arrived in Pittsburgh as a 6th round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and appeared in 17 games as a rookie. While his snap count dropped from 33% of defensive snaps to 26%, he’s still an asset.
The Steelers also have Miles Killebrew who mainly plays special teams, but did has played 50 defensive snaps over the last two seasons.
Finally, the Steelers have Patrick Peterson. Peterson arrived in Pittsburgh as a cornerback, but its been suggested and perhaps even implied by Mike Tomlin that he could play safety.
The Steelers 2023 Draft Needs @ Safety
The Steelers have positioned themselves well at safety. While neither Kazee nor Neal project as long term starters at the strong safety position, both are viable options for Pittsburgh in 2023.
So the Steelers could strength the position in the draft, should do so if they get the opportunity, but do not need to reach to fill a need.
In other words, they have the luxury of being strategic.
When all is said and done, the Steelers need at safety going into the 2023 NFL Draft should be considered as Moderate.