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Steelers Trying to Upgrade at Free Safety

Hat tip to maryrose for bringing up the Chris Crocker visit in his recent diary. It definitely seems like up grading the safety position/special teams is a priority this offseason.

Nearly two weeks ago we broke down the safety position and there were some conflicting points of view on whether the Steelers should draft a safety. There were a few names tossed out there regarding free agency, but nobody really saw the front office courting multiple safetys this past two weeks. First came, Eugene Wilson and then yesterday Chris Crocker (no not the infamous Chris Crocker of You Tube fame). You've got to love the Steelers' commitment to strengthening a unit that was a weakness last year. Neither of these guys would be stars, but competition brings out the best in good players. Whether that competition is with Clark for the starting job or Smith and Carter for primary backup spot, the competition should make the secondary better as a whole.

The interesting thing would be, if one of these guys is signed, which of the current safeties would be cut. The obvious choices (assuming Ryan Clark returns to health in 2008) would be either Tyrone Carter or Anthony Smith. Considering that Carter is older (31) and will cost more in 2008, you'd have to think that he's the odd man out. I don't think they would keep five on the roster but if a couple of them excel on special teams, I could be wrong.

Here's a quick look at the two safeties that the Steelers have their eye on:

Eugene Wilson - 5'10 195lbs. 27 years old
Drafted in the second round of the 2003 draft out of Illinois
55 starts in his 5 year career, 3 full seasons as a starter
3 year average: 65 tackles, 3 INTs, 4 passes defended

Certainly has the ups to break up some passes.

Chris Crocker - 5'11 193lbs. 27 years old
Drafted in the third round of the 2003 draft out of Marshall
52 starts in 5 year career, 3 full seasons as a starter
3 year average: 62 tackles, 2 INTs, 6 passes defended

His lone TD came at Big Ben's expense.

For what it's worth Wilson's three years as a starter came in his first three years. Injuries and the fact that the Pats drafted a safety pushed him to a backup role. Crocker's three years as a starter all came in the last three years. It doesn't take much to see that both guys are pretty similar though and both seem to have decent cover skills. We've already talked quite a bit about Wilson's ability to cover one-on-one. Crocker also seems to have at least some of the same ability as some scouting reports prior to the '03 draft said that he might actually be a corner at the pro level.

So which guy would you rather have? My initial thought would be Wilson but I would imagine he comes with a higher price tag simply because he played for a winning team. I'm not sure if either of them beat out a healthy Clark but if they're able to play smart, they could be the primary backup at free safety and push Smith over to strong safety (which people are already starting to call for anyways). So who you want?