2014 NFL Mock Draft: Steelers take Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation has the Steelers addressing their transitioning safety position with the selection of Alabama's Clinton-Dix.

Dick LeBeau said before the 2013 NFL Draft he wanted the team to come out of it with a safety who could be mentored by Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark.

He got his wish when the Steelers traded up in the fourth round to select Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas.

Do they need another safety?

SB Nation's Matthew Fairburn believes they should kick the tires of that idea. He sent Alabama safety Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix to Pittsburgh with the 15th overall pick in his most recent mock draft.

His reasoning:

Troy Polamalu is still playing at a high level, but Pittsburgh needs to find another playmaker for its secondary. Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix is a versatile safety who can play in single-high coverage, and come up to the line of scrimmage to defend the run. He would form a dangerous tandem with Polamalu and be able to replace him eventually.

The Steelers haven't used the common approach of a strong and free safety in recent years, choosing to use Polamalu more as a rover with a single safety, or even having a cornerback or nickel back drop into two-deep coverage alongside Ryan Clark.

Clark is a free agent, and isn't expected back. Thomas's skillset seems to be that of a strong safety, with his highest and best use being around the box, much like Polamalu, but without high-level coverage skills. Polamalu's coverage has sagged a bit and Thomas is still developing as a young player. The addition of Clinton-Dix would appear to be more based in addressing the vacancy at Clark's position as opposed to the future replacement of Polamalu, but having scheme-versatile safeties can only be an advantage.

Pittsburgh's defense under LeBeau has thrived when the deep secondary was platooned by a smart safety who takes good angles in pursuit and doesn't get beat deep. Clark was that kind of safety through most of his time in Pittsburgh, as was Chris Hope, the player Clark replaced.

Clinton-Dix has some of that in him, although he doesn't seem quite like the run defender Clark is. He's got an advantage over all of them physically, standing at 6-foot-1, 207 pounds. His highest and best use appears to be in deep coverage, as he plays over the top well and can highpoint the ball with a good measure of success.

If the Steelers selected him, he'd compete for sub package time right away and maybe end up starting.

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