History Says Steelers Unlikely To Draft A Safety In First Round

Many draftniks, including myself, consider Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro to be the top safety in the upcoming 2013 NFL draft. I will save my full breakdown of Vaccaro for a later post, but should the Pittsburgh Steelers wind up selecting him, or any other top safety for that matter, in the first round, it would be only the second time in the Super Bowl era, and maybe in the entire history of the franchise, that they drafted that position with their first selection.

Ten years ago was the first time the Steelers drafted a safety in the Super Bowl era in the first round when they traded up to draft Troy Polamalu out of USC. I would say that worked out pretty damn good.

While Vaccaro certainly is fun to watch on tape, he certainly isn\’t in the same class as Polamalu was when he was a draft hopeful. Polamalu is one of those special players that only comes around once every blue moon, and the Steelers were lucky that he dropped down far enough for them to be able to trade up to the 16th spot to get him.

So what about prior to the Super Bowl era? Everyone will likely point to the 1964 draft when the Steelers drafted Paul Martha, but he was actually used as a flanker initially by head coach Buddy Parker. Martha eventually was moved to safety a few years later, but he was not drafted to be one initially, according to my research.

Prior to Martha there was Gary Glick, the first round bonus pick of the Steelers in 1956. Newspapers have written, however, that head coach Walt Kiesling drafted Glick to be a cornerback and kicker initially. Glick is mentioned in the book, “Ruanaidh – The Story of Art Rooney and His Clan“, as a player that turned out to be a serviceable, if unspectacular safety, who ended up being traded to the Washington Redskins in 1959 after Parker become the head coach.

So are safeties a risky pick in the first round? Do they have a high bust rate? Let\’s look at some the names of the safeties drafted in the first round dating back to 2000. That list includes Eric Berry, Earl Thomas, Kenny Phillips, LaRon Landry, Michael Griffin, Reggie Nelson, Michael Huff, Donte Whitner, Sean Taylor, Roy Williams, Ed Reed, Adam Archuleta, Rashard Anderson and Polamalu. Not a bad list of players, but 8 of them were drafted prior to the 17th overall selection in the first round.

If indeed Vaccaro is regarded as a the top safety in this class, which really isn\’t star laden in the first round, odds are he will be off the board by the time the Steelers pick.

A lot of times history is just that, but judging by everything I posted above, it would be a little surprising if the Steelers drafted a safety in the first round, especially considering that this is the deepest safety class in several years.

  • steeltown

    Agree with this post… there are alot of prospects from Rds 2-5 from Reid to Cyprien, Williams to Swearinger there are some guys with plenty of upside. There is no reason to reach in the 1st……. not this year

  • Jonathon Bert Schade

    Tight End, please.

  • steeltown

    Eifert is something special.. would absolutely love to move back a few spots and snag him

  • Mr irrelevant.

    2 things- first I bet you vaccarro isn’t top on our board. Elam is. He’s fast, hard hitting, position flexible thru entire 2ndary and a junior from Tomlins favorite sec team- the gators. And as for history- it does show the pick at 17 won’t be a de/olb. We’ve only drafted one. Ever. Btw that kid from byu- he’s a de in a 4-3 front. Not an olb in a 3-4 front. Just like with the media last yr re Hightower- it’s a smoke screen. We’re not gonna draft an inexperienced player in the first rd. we never have and we never will.

  • Michael Mazanowski

    Agreed! Trade down and choose Eifert!

  • zyzak

    Trade down? he will be gone by 20 He put on a show at the combine, if he takes part in the ND pro day he could improve his stock even more.

  • JohnnyV1

    It depends on what’s available @ 17 when their picking, but I don’t see a RD 1 safety with so many other priorities (DL, TE, WR, OLB).

  • Bradys_Dad

    In my opinion Kenny Vaccaro has almost all of the tools to be great except one. From all of the tape I’ve watched he doesn’t even attempt to wrap guys up. He’s a shoulder throw and shove you down tackler and that may play out well in the NCAA but it doesn’t get things done in the Big Leagues. The great thing about Troy and Ryan is that they know how to and don’t avoid tackling. This is going to be fun to watch unfold.

  • SteelSpine

    True, bummer tho because I don’t foresee Troy surviving 8 games this or any year, so we’re in a pickle at safety. Even if re-sign Will Allen (& that’s only an if), Will cant play both positions same time when Clark too is out. So hello again to the back of #29 Mundy chasing people into endzones.

    Not that LeBeau will be willing to start any rookie next year. Plenty of mocks have Vaccaro gone by the 10th pick, there figures to be no decision for Steelers to make about Vaccaro because as DaveB said he’ll probly be gone. Here’s hoping that this offseason LeBeau prepares other backup plans for safeties.

  • Jeff Johnson

    Obviously many fans forgot already about how bad the steelers have been at forcing turnovers the past two seasons. Art pointed that out when the season was over. Colbert and Tomlin need to draft one of the top 7 pass rushers that will fit their system in the 1st round. They have not drafted a very productive LB since Tomlin’s first year with the steelers. Later round LB’s are just not cutting it for them.

  • Jeff Johnson


  • Jollyrob68

    Vaccaro is tops on their board.

  • Jollyrob68

    If you want him take him or Austin at 17. If they want a safety trade down get another pick then draft a Safety or Banks

  • Jollyrob68

    But Steelers history is they won’t play them. plus they need offensive playmakers or Cooper.

  • Bradys_Dad

    This is kind of a crazy thought. I’ve made it once before. But why not do what’s necessary to re-sign Kennan and move Ike to safety where he could play for another 3-4 years. Ike is a physical stud and has the ability to bring the hammer. This way if we once again can’t rely on Troy giving us 16 we’ll be setting ourselves up for the next couple of years.

  • LucasY59

    No way Mundy even makes it back next year (will be lucky to be on any team) Golden will be the main backup, agree that Allen is a big if (will show how much confidence they have in their draft pick(s)) I think they could pick 2 Safeties with the talent depth in this draft and hopefully that will solve the problem of having a pair of older and injury prone starters (still glad they will be on the team for 1-2 more years) kinda like 2 years ago when they used 2 picks on CB’s and were developing Lewis (if Lewis is resigned CB is the Deepest position on the team)

  • mghjr88

    Is he? And how do you know this?

  • mghjr88

    For sure. I would be happy if the Steelers landed any of these safeties

    Elam- Florida
    Reid- LSU
    Cyprien- FIU
    Swearinger- South Carolina
    Williams- Georgia
    Jefferson- Oklahoma

  • Guest

    Swearinger plays with a mean streak that I love. Plus, if they cut Colon and Harrison, who is going to pick up all those personal fouls for us?

  • SteelersDepot

    I bet you’re wrong.

  • Nolrog

    As much as I’d like to see a replacement for Troy or Clark on the roster now, there are far bigger needs to address with this draft.

  • SteelSpine

    I too can foresee drafting 2 safeties, we need that many more safeties. I base that on we have none on roster who I can count on at this time other than one: Ryan Clark. All the rest are either suspicious health or not signed or showed could not fill in at safety yet. That’s nowhere near enough to count on. I know LeBeau wont play a rookie, but we don’t have enough safeties we can now count on for the following year.

  • SteelSpine

    I’ve always thought it was cool when teams move old big CBs to fee safety. Then Ryan Clark proved he can move to SS if Troy cant play. If we re-sign Keenan, I wish in next training camp a reporter would ask LeBeau or DB coach if they would consider trying during training camp, Cortez or Ike at free safety. A coach might reply that would confuse Cortez if the move doesn’t work out, so I’m just sayin try it for a few weeks in training camp & 1 preseason game.

  • J Peterson

    It doesn’t look like we can fish for a decent safety in the free agent market and we have so many needs on both sides of the ball. This year is deep in the safety position and I can see us “trying” to re-sing Allen and go after a safety… or two … in the draft.

  • steeltown

    Im liking Cyprien and Swearinger more and more as the weeks go by, but Cyprien might go earlier than expected. Swearinger has great value in the 3rd-4th Rd, same could be said for a player like JJ Wilcox in the 4th Rd