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Thread: Is the Safety Position the Steelers greatest need on defense ?

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    Pro Bowler supersteeler's Avatar
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    Is the Safety Position the Steelers greatest need on defense ?

    Steelers Should Start Planning for a Post Polamalu and Clark World
    Will Delaux, Yahoo! Contributor Network
    Apr 8, 2013 "Share your voice on Yahoo! websites. Post a commentAs a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, I fully recognize that it is practically sacrilegious to suggest that the Steelers should part ways with -- or at least prepare to part ways with -- Troy Polamalu, one of the team's iconic players. However, as we have seen this offseason with the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens allowing Brian Urlacher and Ed Reed to leave in free agency, sometimes franchises must cut ties with key veterans from their defense given the realities of the salary cap and age-related declines in performance.

    The Icon of the Defense

    Even casual football fans can pick out Polamalu on the field; he is a hive of activity, alternately blitzing the quarterback, covering a tight end, or playing "centerfield" for the Steelers defense ready to intercept an unsuspecting QB. Polamalu's skills and ability have been key elements in the success of the Steelers' defense recently, as the team has ranked in the top five in total defense in each of the past five years.

    However, the time is near for the Steelers to begin to look beyond Polamalu and identify his replacement. I believe that time will, and should, come following the 2013 NFL season. By the 2014 season, Polamalu with be 33 years old, which is quite old by NFL standards for a starting safety. Polamalu is scheduled to make $7.5 million in 2013, with one additional year at $8.25 million for 2014 remaining his contract. With the Steelers operating near the cap and the anticipation of a relatively flat salary cap for the next few seasons, an older safety with declining skills is a luxury that few teams, in particular the Steelers, can afford. In addition to cost considerations, the Steelers must also consider Polamalu's injury history. He has admitted to having suffered eight or nine concussions throughout his NFL career. Given the heightened emphasis on player safety, another concussion could easily spell the end of Polamalu's great career. And after he missed nine games in 2012 due to a strained calf, the potential for age-related injuries must also be taken into account.

    The Solid Supporter

    Safety Ryan Clark does not receive the acclaim and attention that Polamalu does, but he is just as essential to the success of the Steelers' defense. His solid play at the free safety position and in coverage allows Polamalu to freelance and move around the field, switching between pass coverage, blitzing, and run coverage. Clark provides the Steelers with stability in the secondary, supporting the cornerbacks in coverage. He also has a reputation for being one of the hardest hitting players in the NFL.

    Clark will turn 34 during the 2013 season, and is scheduled to make $3.5 million in 2013 in the final year of a four year contract. This means that the Steelers will face the free agency question with Clark following the 2013 season. The key question is: can a team that is up against the salary cap keep two over-30 safeties that will make a combined $11 million in 2013, almost 10 percent of the team's total cap space? For the benefit of the team, which has other needs in the areas of running back and outside linebacker, the answer is no. It is time for the Steelers to begin to look for replacements for these two foundations of the defense.

    Options in the 2013 Draft

    The Steelers currently hold the 17th (first round), 48th (second round), and 79th (third round) picks in the 2013 draft. The team does have pressing needs for 2013 in the form of upgrading the running back and linebacker positions. However, even with these needs the team must start to look for a young safety that can be brought in to learn the defense and prepare to replace Polamalu or Clark in the secondary. Let's look at options for the Steelers at the safety position in each of the first three rounds. Potential draft targets are identified with the help of rankings from SB Nation:

    First Round - 17th pick: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas

    Second Round - 48th pick: Matt Elam, Florida; Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International; D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina; Eric Reid, LSU
    Third Round - 79th pick: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma; Earl Wolff, North Carolina State

    Given the importance of the athletic and skilled players in the Steelers' zone blitz scheme, I would lean towards a selection of a safety by the second round in order to ensure that the team adds a quality player. Given the Steelers' other positional needs, the selection of Reid or Swearinger in the second round would increase the potential for the Steelers to find a young safety that might reach the same skill level as Polamalu or Clark. Swearinger would be a great choice to replace the hard-hitting Clark, as he has gained a similar reputation in college. Reid projects as a possible Polamalu replacement. He is capable of playing anywhere on the field, helping to either stop the run or support pass coverage.

    Hard Decisions

    Parting ways with Polamalu and Clark will not be easy for the Steelers. When the time comes, there will likely be significant frustration expressed and no shortage of opinions on the decision from the fan base, football writers, and followers of the NFL. However, if the Steelers act now and use the 2013 draft as an opportunity to find a quality young safety, the sting of losing Polamalu and Clark could be mitigated through the presence of a young replacement worthy of taking the place of one of these two great safeties.

  2. #2
    Administrator steelz09's Avatar
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    Swearinger is a stud and will be a good player in the pros. He's not a FS but he would be a great fit for the Steelers at SS. Here is a couple Swearinger highlights


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    Quote Originally Posted by steelz09 View Post
    Swearinger is a stud and will be a good player in the pros. He's not a FS but he would be a great fit for the Steelers at SS. Here is a couple Swearinger highlights

    Is it just Chadman, or does Swearinger look like he has a couple of visits to Mr Goodell in his future?

    Love his playing style- looks like a footballer. Will be interesting to see if the Steelers give him a visit.
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    Administrator steelz09's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chadman View Post
    Is it just Chadman, or does Swearinger look like he has a couple of visits to Mr Goodell in his future?

    Love his playing style- looks like a footballer. Will be interesting to see if the Steelers give him a visit.
    I think so.. Swearinger was a 4 year starter and he has only missed 1 game. That 1 game was a suspension because of a hit on a defenseless receiver.

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    Hall of Famer Mister Pittsburgh's Avatar
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    Was thinking the same thing Chadman, when a few of the early hits in that highlight video were straight up h2h.
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  6. #6
    Safety is clearly the greatest Steeler need. The Steelers will need to fill two spots in short order. Troy and Clark are big shoes to fill.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shawn View Post
    Safety is clearly the greatest Steeler need. The Steelers will need to fill two spots in short order. Troy and Clark are big shoes to fill.
    I think you misspoke here dude. How can it be our greatest need? We have a future HOF, and a guy coming off his best season yet. Granted, both have obviously question marks, but we have a lot more needs than Safety at this point. Personally, I'm way more concerned about our pedestrian D-line, our combination of laissez-faire Tackles (o-line), and no defined "@s$-kicker" on defense (i.e. Lloyd-->Porter-->Harrison).

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    Finding Troy & Clark's eventual replacements doesn't necessarily require 2 top round draft picks, as the role they are asked to perform does not require them both to be as athletic as, say, Troy Polamalu.

    But certainly one of the 2 will want to be an upper echelon type player.

    Wouldn't surprise if a Round 2 pick is used on one of the 2 safety positions, with maybe a 5th or 6th spent on a thumper-type.
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    Safety is a need but not the greatest...Troy could play for 2-3 years...Golden is another one to watch out for. Lebeau and Tomlin are very high on him...

    Steelers can load Safeties in mid-round and start them. This draft is loaded with good safeties.
    Steelers Draft
    Rd 1: Mike Evans - WR
    Rd 2: Kyle Van Noy - ILB/OLB
    Rd 3c: Philip Gaines - CB
    Rd 4: Taylor Hart - DE
    Rd 5: Justin Ellis - DT
    Rd 5c:Xavier Grimble -TE

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by grotonsteel View Post
    Safety is a need but not the greatest...Troy could play for 2-3 years...Golden is another one to watch out for. Lebeau and Tomlin are very high on him...

    Steelers can load Safeties in mid-round and start them. This draft is loaded with good safeties.
    When was the last time Troy had a healthy season? As much as I like Golden, he is more than unproven at this junction.

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