Safety Hazard For The Steelers?

By Jeremy Hritz

All things come to pass, good and bad. The deplorable quarterback play of the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s stung but did not stick. The grit, production, and smiles of Hines Ward helped to capture two Super Bowl victories, yet his time with the team reached its end just this past season. The ebb and flow of players in the NFL is unavoidable, and the great teams are prepared for when a fixture makes his exit.

While there are more immediate needs this year for the Steelers on the offensive line, nose tackle, and inside linebacker, there is another position of need looming.


Consider the following:

  • Starting free safety Ryan Clark is 32, while his back up, Ryan Mundy, who has yet to sign his tender, is 27.
  • Starting strong safety Troy Polamalu is 30, while back up safety Will Allen is 29 years old.

While age is not everything, history has shown that the skills of players in their 30s begin to diminish. Clark and Polamalu have been essential in the success of the Steelers for several years, delivering big hits and game-changing turnovers when they were needed most. The impact that the absence of these players have had on the performance of the Steelers is well documented. In 2009, Polamalu missed several games, leaving the defense with a gaping hole that could not protect a lead. This past January, Clark’s absence from the line-up as a result of his sickle-cell trait resulted in Mundy starting, and the outcome need not be revisited. There is no denying how the absence of either of these players enervates the defense, and as they age, the likelihood of more missed games increases.

And there is no solace to be found in backups Mundy and Allen, as the prospect of these guys filling in for Clark or Polamalu is horrifying. While the Steelers will hopefully be able to make it through the year without an injury at the position, the need at safety for at least some depth is apparent. The Steelers are one injury away at safety from catastrophe.

Which brings us to the 2012 NFL Draft. The Steelers need to, at the very minimum, draft a safety in the later rounds, to provide for some depth, something that Dave Bryan has acknowledged in his mock draft with the selection of Michigan State prospect Trenton Robinson. However, what if stud Mark Barron from Alabama fell to the Steelers in the first round, or if he was close enough to pick 24 for the Steelers to trade up and draft him? Earlier this week, writer Christopher DiMarino sang the praises of Barron and his play making abilities, and how he would be a great addition to the Steelers. I am in agreement with DiMarino, yet the chances of him falling are not great. If Barron is not available, would the Steelers consider going after Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith in the second round, who has been described as intelligent, aggressive, and quick, thought a bit stiff in coverage?

The Steelers’ organization is always prepared for change, and the issue at safety is something that assuredly has been discussed. Whether they make a move this year to address it will be telling about their perspective regarding the durability and confidence in Clark, Polamalu, and their back-ups.

  • Bleebo77

    S is another of those positions that isn’t an immediate need but should definitely be in the list. If the BPA is a S when the Steelers are on the clock, I don’t think they’d hesitate to bring someone in. It seems a little early to be grooming a replacement for the starters (since I hope they have time left), but talent is talent. Personally, I’m interested to see what the Steelers get from Myron Rolle. A lot of folks will be pulling for him.

  • Jprankster2005

    Unless they plan on releasing Clark this yr. or next a safety is not important til next yr. in the draft….. I think there are alot more needs than safety…. And Allen should of been released already and Mundy is never going to be a starter unless Clark can’t play….. So I think they need to draft one or sign a FA or undrafted one but I dont’ think there is a urgency right now…..

  • Jollyrob68

    I dont blame Denver loss on Mundy I blame it on LeBeau and Ike. I can’t wait to see what we have in Myron Rolle. As for Mark Barron, Some mocks have him going early and some have him still on the board. My Question to you is do we take Barron over Hightower or take Hightower and then Trenton Robinson & Keith Tandy?

    Will teams be scared off by Mark Barron’s Hernia? We know the Steelers wont because they drafted Heath after his.

    I can see the Steelers moving Back and trying to get more 2nd or 3rd rounders to acquire better Value Players. Its a Great Draft for Guards.

  • Jprankster2005

    I agree with you…… I would like to see Myron Rolle do great and make the team….. hopefully they release Will Allen and Johnathan Scott to players that are getting paid way more than they worth….. But I don’t see the steelers going safety til late in the draft no way they go 1st round……

  • Even though I have more of a second round grade on Barron, he wouldn’t be a bad addition to the Steelers if available at 24. I expect him to have a solid if not spectacular career. Not a real knock on Barron. Only reason I say what I did is because the only type of safety prospects I put 1st round grades on are guys like Polamalu, Ed Reed and most recently, Eric Berry. Barron doesn’t strike me as elite like those three.

  • I blame Lebeau and Tomlin. They got outcoached badly.

    I too have high hopes (not expectations, but hopes) for Rolle.

    I have been saying for a while, if Barron falls, I think we have to take him.

  • That’s ridiculous to have Trenton Robinson go that late. No way he’ll be around in the 6th. Most recent mocks have him in the 4th.

  • Harold

    We need a safety. But we need an elite safety and this is not a good year for that. Even the #1 (Mark Barron) isn’t very fast. We should wait until next year and draft a 1st rounder.

  • Delilah

    Several people have mentioned Myron Rolle in the comments, indicating they hope he may be able to show the Steelers something as a safety. The thing is, if you look at the Steelers website (roster), they are listing Rolle as a CORNERBACK. I don’t believe it is a typo either. It appears they want to try out the former safety at the CB position. If that is true, that would be one less guy to consider at either SS or FS. It lends more credence to the theory that they may draft a safety.

  • neighborhood drunk

    Spend a late round pick on Sean Richardson or Tavon Wilson.

  • TsarPepe

    Polamalu, Reed, and Berry are HIGH 1rd picks. If any of them were to appear in a draft today, they’ll be taken in the top 5, no question. This is not a good reason to demote Barron to the 2nd rd.

  • buddytoledo

    Bring back Smitty. That’s all there is to it.