How 3 safeties the Steelers are targeting could shape this year’s defense

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a busy offseason, addressing several holes on their roster through shrewd moves and higher-profile signings than we’ve seen in the past.

While they’ve added a quarterback, addressed their offensive line, and made moves at inside linebacker and cornerback, one position still has a large hole in which they need to fill: strong safety.

The position playing next to free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is an important role, much like Ryan Clark was to Troy Polamalu or dare I say, Robin to Batman. Depending on the talent next to Fitzpatrick helps him play more freely, and permits Pittsburgh to utilize their eleven defenders more liberally.

Several names have been associated with the Steelers since the start of the free agency period nearly two weeks ago. As of publishing, these are the three player who have been most linked with the team, and what their impact will be on the defensive unit.

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Tyrann Mathieu

Yes, we’ve been literally begging for the Steelers to make this move all season.

In fact, we were begging for them to make this move forever, dating back to the 2013 NFL Draft when Mathieu was selected in the third round by the Arizona Cardinals. No revisionist history here, as Le’Veon Bell ended up working out okay too… The Honey Badger would go before the Steelers next pick, in the third round, but we were all hoping he’d fall a few more spots.

In Arizona, Mathieu would be a five-year starter, shedding any doubt about his draft weekend drop (he was dismissed from LSU) soaring to a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2015.

Following his tenure with the Cardinals, he would sign for one season with the Houston Texans before his three-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, where he’d be named to three consecutive Pro Bowl teams and again, twice over, be named a First-Team All-Pro selection.

Mathieu, 29-years-old, now awaits his next destination as a cap-heavy Kansas City team appears to have moved on and several other teams are showing interest, including the Steelers, but no official suitor has stepped up yet.

Mathieu could very well be the piece which puts the Steelers defense over the top as a stellar all-star level performer who has contributed to his fair share of splash plays over the years.

At his age, he still has several years of football remaining and could recreate that impactful one-two punch of Polamalu and Clark. He’s a versatile chess piece who can play either safety position and give the Steelers perhaps their best safety duo ever.

The only question remaining is what it will take to get “THB” to sign on the dotted line. Is it money? Years on the deal? Opportunity? Or a bit of all of the above.

Make no mistake, however, this is the guy atop of everyone’s list and the Steelers would be incredibly fortunate to land him this offseason.

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Terrell Edmunds

The devil you know or the devil you don’t…

Too many fans have ragged on Edmunds for years, following his first round selection in 2018 by the Steelers, who were then forced to start him in Week 1 as a rookie when free agent veteran Morgan Burnett wasn’t healthy enough to play – and which remained a theme throughout that season, with Edmunds never giving up his starting strong safety position.

While he has had some faults to his game, the uber athletic brother of Buffalo Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds has steadily improved from season-to-season with one of his best years in 2021.

Edmunds showed his ability to make splash plays and routinely lined up in the slot against opposing tight ends, shutting down a position that was routinely a thorn in the Steelers side over the years.

While no one will argue that Mathieu has the accolades to suggest he’s an upgrade over Edmunds, bringing back Terrell wouldn’t be a bad decision whatsoever for the Steelers and would represent a consistent continuation of their secondary for years to come.

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Damontae Kazee

A 2017 draft pick, Kazee had struggled with injuries over his first four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, who picked him in the fifth round.

For a day three draft pick, he ascended to starter status, with an outlier season in 2018 where he picked off seven passes. His two best seasons in Atlanta saw Kazee become a tackling machine as well, but he moved on to the Dallas Cowboys last season – starting 15 games with otherwise fine performances but a general lack of splash plays. (Moreso than even Edmunds.)

Kazee can be a good pickup for the Steelers, but I’m not sure he will be though of as a starter. This could be more of the same move the team made in 2018, when they signed Burnett to start initially, but also drafted Edmunds as the future.

With the Steelers looking into Kazee, it’s also possible they’re looking at him in addition to signing Mathieu or Edmunds – they had done similar research on Malik Hooker last season, who would’ve been added as an extra safety in tandem with Terrell or Minkah. (Similarly, the Steelers also fielded safety Arthur Maulet and Tre Norwood, sometimes both, while having their starters on the field as well.)

Regardless, any of the players listed here would help shore up any concerns about the Steelers defense heading into training camp, let alone with the NFL Draft still around the corner to help add more to the group.

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