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The Steelers strong safety battle has a front-runner, but is an open competition

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a trio of veteran safeties, but who will be the guy next to Minkah Fitzpatrick in the secondary?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers-Training Camp Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers went into this offseason not knowing who they’d have next to Minkah Fitzpatrick in the deep secondary. For the longest time the strong safety position was considered the biggest hole to be filled on the roster.

While fans wanted nothing more than Tyrann Mathieu to join the team via free agency, the Steelers had different plans. Their patient approach ended with two safeties joining the team, but whether their approach paid off won’t be determined until the team starts to prepare for the 2022 regular season in training camp.

The Steelers being able to bring back Terrell Edmunds on an extremely team-friendly one-year deal, and also signing Damontae Kazee gave them the insurance they lacked at the position. The forgotten player in this position battle might just be Karl Joseph, a former first round pick who also re-signed with the Steelers this offseason.

Regardless of those who are on the roster, when defensive coordinator Teryl Austin spoke to the media Wednesday he said the position battle has a front-runner. In fact, he said the job is Edmunds’ to lose.

This per Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

But what about Kazee? The Steelers have seen plenty of Edmunds in his time with the Steelers since being their 1st Round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has been the entrenched starter since Morgan Burnett’s injury plagued season forced him into the starting lineup as a rookie.

Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about Kazee, and what he brings to the team, after Wednesday’s minicamp session.

“He’s a guy that’s got a bunch of experience, starter experience, and he’s in a competitive opportunity.” Tomlin said of Kazee. “Competition makes us all better. We value his experience, his expertise, and his talents and look forward to finding a way to divvy up the labor.”

With Kazee being the commodity they know the least about, the natural follow up question was whether he could play both free and strong safety? Tomlin said he believes he can.

“It appears so, but again, we don’t have a lot of ball in and so those things will be revealed as we continue.”

There is a third alternative here, and it doesn’t end with one player being a starter and the other riding the bench. Plenty has been discussed, and written, on the team potentially playing three safeties in certain situations this year. The three safety look is a Brian Flores staple, and it would appear the team has the horses to run this very system in 2022.

If that were the case, Edmunds could absolutely play a safety look who plays around the line of scrimmage, not just stopping the run but also covering backs and tight ends in the flat. Kazee would be your deep center field type of safety taking the deep half of the secondary, while Fitzpatrick would be allowed to do what he does best. That being roaming the middle of the field and baiting quarterbacks into mistakes.

The Steelers have options, and those options go beyond Kazee and Edmunds all the way to Marcus Allen, Miles Killebrew and the aforementioned Joseph. It is now up to the coaching staff to find a way to make these versatile safeties both fit the system, and make a difference when they are called upon.

Thursday will mark the final day of the Steelers’ three-day mandatory minicamp, so be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they prepare for the long break before training camp starts in late July.