The Pittsburgh Steelers open training camp in Latrobe one month from today. As we continue to count down the days we will continue to look at the several roster battles that are shaping up at all of the positions.
Last week we had a look at the Steelers cornerback roster battles and now we move forward by taking a look at the safety position.
The Steelers have opened the last four seasons with 4 safeties on their 53 man roster and the only way that changes this year is if they decide to carry an extra one because of Ryan Clark not being able to play week 1 at Denver because of his sickle cell trait.
Roster locks right now for three of what could be five spots on the 53 man roster are of course Clark, Troy Polamalu and Ryan Mundy. Outside of those three players there are four more safeties currently listed on the 90 man roster following mini-camp. Those four players are Will Allen, Damon Cromartie-Smith, Myron Rolle and Robert Golden. Below is a look at those four safeties.
Will Allen - Mike Tomlin seems to have a soft spot for Allen, who played under the Steelers head coach when he was the defensive backs coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Allen enters his third season with the Steelers, and his final year under contract, with a cap charge of just over $1.6 million. Allen is mostly regarded as a special teams player at this stage of his career as he has played just 46 snaps on defense since arriving in Pittsburgh. His lack of playing time is not surprising though as he sits fourth on the depth chart behind Polamalu, Clark and Mundy. As far as his special teams play goes, the 30 year old Allen registered 9 tackles last season. On the negative side, he was flagged 3 times in 2011. In 2010 he was also flagged 3 times on special teams with 9 tackles. The Steelers will only incur a dead money hit of $325,000 should they part ways with the veteran which would save the team $1.28 million in cap space minus displacement cost of whoever would be kept in his place. Right now he appears to be the front runner for the fourth safety spot on the roster, but that is only due to his seniority. He is the farthest thing from a lock right now and his saving grace might be tied to the fact that Clark will more than likely sit week 1 against the Denver Broncos.
Damon Cromartie-Smith - Cromartie-Smith is no stranger to the way things are run in Pittsburgh as he spent the entire 2010 season on the practice squad and the last quarter of the 2011 season on the active roster. The Texas-El Paso product saw action on special teams late last year and recorded 3 tackles to go along with 1 penalty. He will benefit greatly from a full off-season program and is a much cheaper alternative to Allen if he can gain the trust of defensive backs coach Carnell Lake and special teams coach Al Everest. He is a physical player that does not shy away from contact and should be a player to keep an eye on during the preseason as he figures to get quite a bit of playing time. This far out I really like his chances of making the 53 man roster.
Myron Rolle - Rolle is fully dedicated to making one final push at the NFL. He was originally drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL draft after studying at Oxford University for the 2009–10 academic year on a Rhodes Scholarship. Rolle spent the entire 2010 NFL season on the Titans\' practice squad and was back again in 2011 with the Titans during training camp, but he failed to make their 53 man roster and their practice squad. The Florida State product shouldn\'t have any issues learning the complexities of the Dick LeBeau defense so it will come down to his ability to execute and his ability to contribute on special teams. Rolle still has practice squad eligibility, so that is always an option should he not make the roster. The time spent away overseas ensured he would have a solid career after football, and this will likely be his last attempt to prove himself as NFL worthy.
Robert Golden - Golden was signed as an undrafted free agent after playing both cornerback and safety at Arizona. He was snubbed from the NFL combine and is likely best suited as a safety at the next level. During his college career Golden recorded 18 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles and 4 interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. He is not afraid of contact as evidence by his 183 career tackles, of which 131 where solos. Golden showed that he could cover quite a bit of ground at times in the Wildcats secondary and proved his ability to play special teams in addition. The switch from corner to safety his senior season makes him a real project for Lake. He really has an uphill battle ahead of him to make the 53 man roster and he must take advantage of every bit of playing time he gets during camp and the preseason.
In summation, there is one roster spot that should certainly be deemed as up for grabs when the team reports to Latrobe with the possibility of two depending on how they view the situation with Clark. Odds are that they will just carry four for the opening game, but I just wanted to include the Clark situation as a possible option. You just never know.
Allen in my opinion is anything but a lock at this point and I really like the chances of him being made expendable by Cromartie-Smith. Both Rolle and Golden really face uphill battles in my opinion and I see one of the two being retained on the practice squad. It is not out of the question that another safety body could be added to the mix by the time the team reports to Latrobe in the form of a veteran or another undrafted type.
Previous Training Camp Roster Battle Post
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Defensive Ends
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Wide Receivers
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Tight Ends
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Kickers
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Cornerbacks
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Running Backs
2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Roster Battles: Nose Tackles