When looking into the Steelers' depth at every position throughout this series, it becomes obvious how the organization has built an impressive starting roster. Put an emphasis on starting roster. The depth at certain positions leaves a lot to be desired.
With that said, not all positions are created equal in this regard. Look at the wide receiver position and the tremendous depth there. Then look at the safety position, and you quickly realize depth there is lacking.
No NFL roster is complete from top to bottom. Every team has positions where, if they suffer an injury, they will be crippled. For most teams, quarterback would be atop the list of positions at which they can ill afford to lose their starter. The Steelers' inept offense in 2019 proved that without Ben Roethlisberger, but entering the 2020 season, there are other positions which should have fans praying to the football gods the starters remain healthy.
Safety would certainly be one of those.
Before breaking down the battles which await the team in training camp at the end of July, let's take a look at the depth chart.
Antoine Brooks Jr. (R)
It is worth noting that players such as Mike Hilton and Cam Sutton are capable of shifting back into a safety role. Does Keith Butler want to do this? That's highly doubtful, unless it is part of the game plan. If Hilton or Sutton has to shift back into the deep half of the secondary, it likely means there was an injury to one of the starters, and the Steelers' safety tandem heading into 2020 is worthy of praise.
Fitzpatrick and Edmunds, now with a year together under their belts, should be quite the Batman and Robin duo. Everyone loves to pile on Edmunds for his lack of big-play production, but as our Dale Lolley pointed out, he isn't nearly as bad as people think.
The fact is, if Edmunds can be a reliable, dependable, safety alongside Fitzpatrick, this duo can be lethal. Just think about some of the safety tandems the team has had in recent memory. When Troy Polamalu was roaming all over the field before the snap, he could do so knowing either Chris Hope or Ryan Clark was going to be where he was supposed to be, allowing Polamalu to freelance. There has already been talk of Fitzpatrick wanting to be more of a joker, the ability to move around and adjust on the fly, for the defense in 2020, and it will be up to Edmunds to hold down the fort in the deep secondary. Edmunds has been extremely durable in the early portions of his career, and this bodes well for Fitzpatrick and Edmunds to show what they can do.
But what if one of the starters gets injured? The thought might cause fans to cringe.
Looking at the depth chart, the starters are obvious, but after those two, there is a list of individuals who leave little hope in keeping the standard as the standard. If there is a position on the roster which is wide-open entering training camp, it would be the backup safety spots.
Dangerfield and Allen have experience on their side, and should be given every opportunity to prove themselves capable, but Brooks Jr., even as a rookie, will be pressing both for a spot on the depth chart. It is easy for fans to ignore names like Battle and Kinell, but I can't emphasize how open this battle will be during training camp. Dangerfield has been nothing more than a special-teams player throughout his career, and Allen has yet to claim a steady spot on the active roster.
Entering camp, the depth chart will clearly look like this:
As stated before, those backup safety positions are up for grabs, and the team drafted Brooks for a reason. The debate on who will be kept comes down to how many safeties they will have on their roster. It is possible the team keeps five, but I could see them keeping just four, and Allen being the odd man out.
Allen has been touted as the box safety who can stuff the run and be a physical presence. This is the same description everyone has of Brooks, who is coming out of Maryland. If they keep just four, they would be Fitzpatrick, Edmunds, Dangerfield and Brooks. If they keep five, Allen would likely get the nod, but I wouldn't expect either Brooks or Allen to contribute to the team outside of special teams in 2020. Keep in mind the versatility of Sutton and Hilton when thinking about the depth at the position.
No matter how you slice it, safety is one of the few positions on the Steelers' 2020 roster which should have fans praying for the health of the starters.
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