Pittsburgh’s Goin’ to the Super Bowl: Safety in Numbers
The safety position was one of the few pretty much completely unaffected by free agency. The Steelers didn’t lose (or not re-sign) anyone who had played any significant amount of snaps at the position.
The possible exception is Shamarko Thomas, once considered the heir apparent to Troy Polamalu but ultimately ineffective. But Thomas has played essentially no snaps at safety in the past year—he played six, to be precise. While he was a valuable special teamer when healthy, he missed a lot of time last year with injuries—four weeks with a groin injury and four weeks due to concussion. It seems unlikely he will be back in the Black and Gold.The two principle safeties—Steelers’ Rookie of the Year Sean Davis and Mike Mitchell, are firmly in the fold. Mitchell is signed through 2018 and Davis has three more years on his rookie contract. Behind them are last year’s opening day starter, Robert Golden, who is also signed through 2018, and two depth guys, both of whom are Exclusive Rights Free Agents at the end of 2017—Jacob Hagen and Jordan Dangerfield.
So since the safety position seems pretty solid, let’s take a quick look at how well the incumbents played last season. Mike Mitchell, who was one of the Steelers’ few “splashy” signings back in 2014, was a target of Steeler Nation’s ire when he didn’t live up to the high expectations and healthy contract. However, I think it is fair to say that he has played very well in the last two years. He’s even managed to cut back on the unnecessary penalties while still hitting with conviction.
Sean Davis certainly struggled at first. It is hardly surprising, given that he was both a rookie starting in the Steelers’ defense and that they were actually moving him around from slot corner to safety and back. I wonder how many rookies in the recent history of the Steelers’ defense have not only started as a rookie but played two positions?
And while Davis took a couple of seemingly dumb (and very visible) penalties in the post-season which were not helpful, they weren’t so much dumb as unfortunate. Certainly the coaching staff seemed to be less concerned about them than Davis himself. He’s a bright young man with a bright future, one would assume.
And this hopefully bodes well for the Steelers’ backfield. What a luxury to have a second-year player already thoroughly comfortable with the defense and accustomed to working with his partner. I would expect Davis and Mitchell to take up where they left off.
As for the draft, certainly I would expect the Steelers not to pass up tremendous value at the safety position if it fell into their lap, but it’s hard to see them taking a safety before Day Three otherwise, given the other seemingly more pressing needs on the team. And perhaps not even then.
And finally, as for BLA, the news in the backfield is good. Mike Mitchell is perhaps neither as natty or articulate as Ryan Clark (although perhaps there is something to be said for a bit less articulateness until after retirement,) he is a fine-looking man and a generally good guy, at least if you aren’t heading for the end zone. And while Sean Davis is no Troy Polamalu, either on or off the field, I expect great things of this young man, and expect to see him grow into the very large shoes left behind when Troy retired. Although it is probably too late for the hair, Davis could do no better than to emulate the man in every other way who previously held the job with such distinction.