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Steelers 'safety dance' of building depth in defensive backfield through transactions

Pittsburgh has made moves to establish their safeties over the years. Only two safeties have been drafted with their own picks, having acquired most of their safeties through draft pick trades, both up and down, and free agency.

Andy Lyons

There has to be a compelling reason behind the Steelers' decision to acquire a safety.

Since general manager Kevin Colbert took over in 2000, they have selected just two safeties in the draft who were not the results of trades - Chris Hope in 2002 and Ryan Mundy in 2008. Otherwise, the Steelers acquired Ryan Clark via free agency and traded up for Troy Polamalu in 2003 (with Kansas City) and Shamarko Thomas (Cleveland) and traded down for Anthony Smith in 2006 (with Minnesota).

It's tough to tell which is more of the story here, how rarely the Steelers draft safeties or how often they make moves that result in the acquisition of a safety. Some of that can be attributed to the outstanding careers of Polamalu and Clark - the team's consistent starters since 2008 - as well as a few key free agents over the years - Will Allen, for example.

As free agency kicks off in a little over 24 hours, and the Steelers appearing to be moving on from Clark, letting Thomas (a rare Steelers safety who does not have a Super Bowl ring) and Allen compete for the free safety position, it wouldn't be a surprise to hear of them dipping into the free agency market for a starter again. In the past they may not have coveted an incredible amount of depth at either safety position due to the skill of their starters, but with one position up in the air and another manned by the 33-year-old Polamalu, they'll ignore that depth at their own peril.