Throughout the Pittsburgh Steelers’ eight decades as a team in the National Football League, they have best been defined by their defense, especially at the safety position. Mel Blount, Donnie Shell, Carnell Lake and Ryan Clark are just a few Steelers’ of the past who have made an impact at the position.
The team enter training camp with seven safeties on their roster before they are required to trim it down to fifty-three players before the start of the 2014 regular season.
Here, we will take a look at those seven, and those who could ultimately make the final cuts as Week One rapidly approaches.
After missing more than half of the 2012 season due to injury, Troy Polamalu bounced back in 2013 by starting all sixteen games and recorded a Pro Bowl season that many in Steeler Nation were hoping for. He recorded two sacks (including one where he perfectly timed Titans quarterback Jake Locker’s snap count), two interceptions and five forced fumbles—a career high for the twelve year veteran.
Although the years are adding up for the former Defensive Player of the Year, Polamalu shows no sign of slowing down. On a defense that is getting younger by the year, Polamalu helps lead the charge into 2014 as the team’s starting Strong Safety.
It became all but apparent that Ryan Clark was no longer the answer at Free Safety in Pittsburgh after a horrendous 2013, and it was time to get younger at the position quick, as both of their starting safeties were approaching their mid thirties.
Pittsburgh optioned for five year veteran Mike Mitchell during the offseason, and signed him to a five year deal. Mitchell brings an hard hitting, aggressive style of play that Clark brought with him from the Redskins in 2006, and will no doubt complement Troy Polamalu very well.
After spending his first four seasons as an Oakland Raider, Mitchell was signed to the Carolina Panthers for one season, where he flourished as a defensive back, intercepting four passes in one season to the two he had in four seasons in Oakland.
Mitchell is expected to be just as successful on Pittsburgh’s defense. With Dick LeBeau as his Defensive Coordinator and Carnell Lake as his positions coach, he has all the tools he needs for a productive career as a Steeler.
Another veteran presence at Safety, Will Allen has spent the past four seasons on the Steelers’ roster. In 2012 he handled starting duties for an injured Troy Polamalu for a seven game stint, and played admirably at the position.
Allen left in free agency during the 2013 offseason to play for the Dallas Cowboys, but would be released before the halfway mark of the season, where he was picked up yet again by Pittsburgh.
He proved invaluable during the Steelers’ defensive back woes last season, and is also a great Special Teams talent. The team signed him back to a one year deal in March.