I am a lot higher on the Steelers safety unit than most, viewing the top 4 options as viable starters for a lot of teams. Obviously, the unit is led by an All-Pro that was recently paid as the league’s top Free Safety (FS), and he is joined by solid, if unspectacular contributors to the group. Let’s dive a little deeper into this group, specifically looking at who’s up and coming for this young group.
Note: position labels are pulled directly from the team’s official roster on Steelers.com
S: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds, Demontae Kazee, Karl Joseph, Miles Killebrew, Donovan Stiner
DB: Tre Norwood
Let’s start at the top with the 2-time All-Pro, Minkah Fitzpatrick, who just got the bag and a chance to bounce back to the Super Splash Play machine we saw in 2019 and 2020. That’s not to say he wasn’t spectacular in 2021, but the team’s horrific rush defense forced no. 39 to help in run support way more than the team would prefer. A great season for Minkah would include about 20-30 less total tackles, and a few more turnovers forced. At his best, he’s one of the few Safeties that can dictate how an opposing offense calls plays.
Terrell Edmunds is criminally underrated across Steeler Nation and the league. The 28th overall pick of the Steelers in 2018 has developed into a solid starting Strong Safety (SS) providing mistake-free play in the box and excelling vs. opposing Tight Ends. He and Fitzpatrick form a dynamic duo that knows each other well. At a position where communication is priority number one, Edmunds familiarity with the system and with his partner in crime on the back end is a huge plus.
Nobody is really talking about the addition of Demontae Kazee to the Safety room in Pittsburgh, but this is one of my favorite signings by the team all offseason. Kazee is a master-sleuth on the back end, routinely making plays on footballs, and, despite his smaller size, bringing a physicality that coaches will love. Kazee gives the Steelers options in the secondary, potentially allowing Fitzpatrick to play more of the robber role that led to the team’s astronomical takeaway numbers of a couple seasons ago.
Second year defensive back (DB) Tre Norwood projects to play a highly versatile role for the Steelers in 2022. He has a very similar skillset to the last player we discussed, and Mike Tomlin and Teryl Austin will take advantage of his ability to play in the slot and as the deep defender in package Defenses. I have my eye on this young man, and I really think with continued development he can be a difference-maker on this defense in 2022 and beyond.
Now we get to the depth pieces behind Edmunds at SS. Starting with Karl Joseph, who profiles as a better fit in the box safety role than either Kazee or Norwood. Karl Joseph is a wiley veteran with plenty of experience and could be one of the glue pieces of this secondary. His roster spot is far from certain, however, with another veteran and special teams ace, Miles Killebrew, vying for a similar role. Killebrew’s elite ability on Special Teams does give him the edge if this turns into a “two dogs, one bone” kind of situation, as Coach Tomlin likes to say.
Rounding out the position group is Donovan Stiner, a 2021 UDFA who spent the 2021 season on the Steelers Practice Squad. Unfortunately for the former Florida Gator, the Steelers are very deep at Safety, and Stiner would need a significant step up in performance to push any of the players listed above for a roster spot. What Stiner brings is physicality and size to the position (6’2”, 210lbs), but a general lack of versatility and elite athleticism may be his downfall. He could stick on the practice unit again if the Steelers wish, but Stiner has an uphill climb to viability on this roster.
Depth Chart Prediction
This group is surprisingly deep and I think one of the strengths of this defense. Whether it is capable of hiding some potential early-season shakiness from the Cornerback room is TBD, but the experience and skill of Minkah and company should allow the guys on the outside to play free and aggressive, which will hopefully lead to big takeaway numbers to assist a young offense in transition.
The Edmunds haters need to give it a rest and appreciate the fact that he is a solid contributor on this defense. Kazee and Norwood give the team incredible versatility, while Miles Killebrew looks to provide valiant fill-in duties when necessary while maintaining his status as a Special Teams Ace. The Steelers should be very happy and excited about this room in 2022.
I look forward to your comments and answers to the poll question below. Go Steelers!
FS: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Demontae Kazee, Tre Norwood
SS: Terrell Edmunds, Miles Killebrew
How do you feel about Terrell Edmunds in 2022?
This poll is closed
Glad he’s back. Best fit at SS for Pittsburgh in 2022.
Fine that he’s back, but wish the team had attempted to upgrade.
Unacceptable that he’s still with the team. He’s a weak spot.