One of the burning questions for the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into training camp this week is who will be playing Free Safety in 2018?
Will it be Morgan Burnett? Sean Davis? Terrell Edmunds?
No one, including defensive coordinator Keith Butler, knows for sure, but one thing which Pro Football Focus (PFF) showed fans via their Steelers Twitter feed is how Davis has more experience at Free Safety than most believed.
Check out this statistic:
Davis played more FS than SS last season with 354 snaps coming at FS, 122 at SS and the rest splitting between mainly slot CB and LB.— PFF PIT Steelers (@PFF_Steelers) July 23, 2018
Burnett didn't end up playing much safety last year. 80.5% of his defensive snaps came at either LB or slot CB. https://t.co/BWM8mxgxiS
Last year it was believed Mike Mitchell was the Free Safety, and Davis the Strong Safety. According to PFF’s data, Davis had more than double the reps at Free Safety compared to Strong Safety.
The experience is there, but is the effectiveness? Without going back and watching every game over again, you think back to big plays and busted coverages and now wonder if it was indeed Mitchell, the fan base’s favorite scapegoat, or actually Davis who was in charge of “center field” responsibilities?
The next logical question, which was asked regarded the usage of Morgan Burnett, is whether or not he would be the player to step up and play the Free Safety position?
If his play for the Packers in 2017 is any indication, the answer is ‘No’. As you see above, over 80-percent of his snaps came as a box linebacker, or slot cornerback last year — not as a safety.
What does this all mean? It means regardless of snap totals and data similar to what PFF provides, no one knows what will happen within the Steelers’ secondary. Could they be trying to re-invent the way NFL defenses put bigger safeties on the field as pseudo linebackers? Or are they just trying to put a band aid over the gaping hole left by Ryan Shazier?
This will certainly be a story line to keep an eye on when the players report to camp on the 25th, and one which shouldn’t take long to start to see unfold. Does Burnett line up next to Davis? Are the rookie safeties used in specific sub packages?
All of these questions will finally have answers attached to them starting Wednesday when the Steelers return to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.