Sean Davis might spur Steelers to draft safety
When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Sean Davis in 2016, they were trying to get younger at the two safety positions, where the starters had a combined age of 60-plus years spanning the previous six seasons.
It topped out at a combined 66 years in 2013 between Ryan Clark (34) and Troy Polamalu (32). The next two years featured a combination of Polamalu (33) and Mike Mitchell (27), then Mitchell (28) and Will Allen (33).
The addition of Davis in the second round in 2016 brought down the average age as part of the reconstruction of the Steelers defense that started trending toward younger, athletic players. Terrell Edmunds came aboard last year as a first-round pick and, because of an injury to veteran Morgan Burnett, started 15 games.
This year, the Steelers again will have youth on their side in the secondary. Davis is 25, and Edmunds turned 22 in January.
Still, with the release of Burnett after one forgettable season, the Steelers could be in the market for another safety in the NFL Draft. However, it may be done with Davis’ uncertain future in mind.
After a season in which the Steelers tied a franchise record for fewest interceptions (eight) and created fewer turnovers than all but two teams, general manager Kevin Colbert said he will look for defensive playmakers in this draft class.
In his first season playing deep as a free safety, Davis led the Steelers with 80 tackles, but he had just one interception and no forced fumbles. Edmunds also had one interception and didn’t force a fumble.
Davis, though, is heading into his fourth year and could become an unrestricted free agent in 2020 if the Steelers don’t extend his contract this summer. That could become more difficult now that Davis has changed agents, going with high-profile Drew Rosenhaus.
If the Steelers wish to find a defensive playmaker and guard against a possible exit by Davis, they will have an abundance of options in this class.
“The hidden part of this draft is the good numbers at the safety position,” said Gil Brandt, former personnel director of the Dallas Cowboys. “I think the safety position has as many quality players that I can remember being at the position in years.”
ESPN’s top 100 player rankings has its highest-rated safety at No. 25 (Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram), but nine safeties are included on the list.
“One of the better safety classes in years,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said. “There are a bunch of really good safeties.”
The ironic part for the Steelers is that a prospect from Davis’ alma mater could be on their radar: Maryland’s Darnell Savage. He fits the bill of a playmaking safety considering he had four interceptions as a senior and three as a junior.
“He’s a first responder guy,” McShay said. “He’s right there when a play needs to be made.”
Savage was one of 33 players — including three safeties — who visited the Steelers during the predraft process.
He rapidly is climbing in some draft circles after originally being projected as a second-round or third-round pick. After the first round, the Steelers hold the Nos. 55, 66 and 83 picks on the second day.
“There’s no player that’s got more steam and momentum now in this draft than Darnell Savage,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “Teams love him, love him to the point where I would not be surprised if he found his way into the first round.”
Savage is on the smaller size at 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds, but he ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and is viewed as a safety who can play multiple positions. Savage had 52 tackles in his final year at Maryland, including 51/2 for loss.
“His tape is really good,” McShay said. “He’s a really good football player. … He doesn’t get out of the second round, in my opinion. I think he’s one of the top 40 players in this class.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .