Since speaking with the Pittsburgh media last weekend, many of the remarks made by Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert have made rounds throughout the fan base. One item particularly which has been dissected is Colbert’s statement that the Steelers currently have starters for 24 of their 25 positions. Admitting that the Steelers still need a starting strong safety, this admission caused some national media to instantly scramble to suggest the position in the first round of some of their mock drafts.
As many Steeler fans know, it is often in the philosophy for Pittsburgh to enter the draft each season with all the pieces in place for the upcoming year. Using the draft to add to position groups and potentially upgrade starting positions, the Steelers have been able to do this in most cases with the obvious exception being 2021 when they were strapped with a reduced salary cap.
Knowing the Steelers are likely to look for their starting strong safety in the remaining players in free agency, is the position group still in need of more players from the 2022 NFL draft?
First, let’s take a look at the safeties currently under contract on the Steelers roster:
If the Steelers add their starting strong safety in free agency, do they still need another player at the position group? Are players such as Tre Norwood, Miles Killebrew, and even Karl Joseph in line to be the reserves to where the Steelers don’t have to push the issue at safety in the draft? If the depth at safety is strong, would a drafted player struggle to make the roster?
First of all, it will depend on how many players the Steelers plan to keep on the roster at the position. Looking at the trend over the last several years, the Steelers typically keep 10 defensive backs on their 53-man roster. The breakdown between cornerback and safety has not always been the same, but the two positions together generally total 10 players.
Unless the Steelers have safeties with position flexibility to also be cornerbacks, if there is not an even split between the two positions the deficiency usually comes at safety. While the Steelers sometimes keep five players from each position group, it also is not out of the question for them to keep six cornerbacks and four safeties.
Knowing that the Steelers are unlikely to have more than five safeties on their 53-man roster, is there room for another player beyond adding the needed starter?
Filling the starting role ahead of the 2022 NFL draft is the ideal situation for the Steelers. If they are able to sign a player who they feel will be entrenched at the position for the length of their contract, adding another player in the draft would not be a necessity. But if the player the Steelers add at strong safety may only be in the short term or even questionable as a starter, the need to possibly address the position early in the 2022 NFL draft becomes a higher priority.
A good example of what I am referring to would be the Steelers signing Morgan Burnett in 2018. Burnett was brought in to ideally be the starter, but the Steelers still drafted Terrell Edmunds in the first round of the draft. With Burnett dealing with injuries early in the season, it was a good thing the Steelers had another player to insert and Edmunds grabbed the role and ran with it. Well some were unhappy with his production, what can’t be denied is that Edmunds never relinquished starring role.
If the Steelers were to sign a potential long-term starter at strong safety, such as Terrell Edmunds or other capable safeties still on the free agent market, the need to draft the position goes way down the list of priorities. In fact, a safety drafted on the third day of the NFL draft would have their work cut out for them just to make the Steelers 53-man roster this fall. But if this is not the type of strong safety the Steelers are able to land in free agency, they may have to come to camp with more players at the position in order to get it all sorted out.
If the Steelers believe they can land a sufficient starter at free safety, it ultimately comes down to what they think about the other depth pieces currently on the roster. If the Steelers are high on Tre Norwood and Miles Killebrew as reserves and they are locked in to make the roster, adding another player may not be the best use of their draft capital.
What do you think? Is the Steelers depth at safety acceptable and they only need one player to take the starting role? Should the Steelers be double-dipping in both free agency and the draft to make sure they are covered? Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below.