Steelers OTA preview: Safety roles could expand for young players
Editor’s note: Heading into the start of OTAs, the Tribune-Review will take a daily look at a position that will bear watching once the entire 91-man roster convenes at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Almost five months after playing their last game, the Pittsburgh Steelers are about to put a full roster on the field as they ramp up preparations for the 2019 season.
The third and final phase of the NFL’s offseason conditioning program begins May 21 for the Steelers with the first of 10 OTAs.
Phase 3, as it is known, spans four weeks, with the final one featuring the team’s mandatory three-day minicamp. Players cannot wear pads except to cover the knees and elbows. Helmets can be worn, and teams can participate in 11-on-11 drills, but no hitting is permitted.
Who’s back: Sean Davis, Terrell Edmunds, Marcus Allen, Jordan Dangerfield
Davis returns at free safety for the second year in a row, the first time he has enjoyed such modest stability at a position in his four NFL seasons. Edmunds, after being thrown prematurely into a starting role as a rookie, will be at strong safety. Dangerfield played primarily special teams last season, and Allen appeared in just two games.
Who’s gone: Morgan Burnett, Nat Berhe, Malik Golden
The Steelers wisely moved on from Burnett after one season when he lost his starting job to injury and reluctantly tried to fill a hybrid linebacker role. Linebacker Mark Barron, signed in free agency, can play the hybrid role in sub packages if needed.
Who’s new: Dravon Askew-Henry, P.J. Locke
Safety was the one defensive position the Steelers didn’t address in the draft, so they signed West Virginia’s Askew-Henry and Texas’ Locke as undrafted free agents.
What’s at stake?: Davis and Edmunds will be the starters, barring injury. Coach Mike Tomlin talked of an expanded role for Allen in his second season, and the Steelers will need someone to take over Burnett’s spot because they play sub-package schemes at least 75 percent of the time. A roster spot is there for Askew-Henry or Locke to take, and OTAs will be the first chance to make an impression on the coaching staff.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .