Pre-Draft Free Agent Movements: Safety
The vast bulk of the offseason roster moves to be made before the draft are already completed, so now is a good time to start taking a look at how the month of March (and the early portions of April) have affected the depth chart.
The Pittsburgh Steelers entered the offseason with 21 unrestricted free agents. They retained many of them, but also lost a few that they likely wished to keep, and were forced to replace them from outside the organization. The Steelers also released a few players, in addition to signing half a dozen (and counting) players from other teams.
The next position we will take a look at is safety, and the offseason gains and losses there that the team has experienced.
Will Allen: The Steelers made sure to re-sign Will Allen before free agency began, not knowing what they would be able to accomplish, yet knowing that they wanted to go a different way at the free safety position.
Allen has been in the system for a few years now and has done well in it, starting several games in 2012 and playing extensively as the quarters safety last season after returning to the Steelers midseason. He played well enough to merit bringing him back after flirting with a starting job in Dallas.
With an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovered and nearly returned for a touchdown, Allen found himself around the ball a decent amount. However, he likely won’t find himself on the field nearly as much this season as second-year safety Shamarko Thomas figures to take on a bigger role.
Mike Mitchell: The Steelers were just one of several teams courting former Raiders and Panthers Mike Mitchell safety during the first few hours of free agency this year, but theirs was the winning bid at five years, $25 million. Only $5.25 million of that was guaranteed, however, and the early years have low salary values, making it easier to escape from if necessary.
Mitchell is being brought in to start immediately at free safety opposite Troy Polamalu, replacing Ryan Clark, who has already signed with the Redskins. He brings an interesting versatility with him, 3.5 sacks, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles.
Ryan Clark: The writing was on the wall for Clark for some time now. His play slipped dramatically at times this past season. He is a step slower and not as sure a tackler as he once was, and his in-season contract demands were off-putting despite the fact that he ultimately signed elsewhere for the minimum.
Clark served the Steelers very well since signing him, often playing at a Pro Bowl level in some of the later years. The reason the last line of defense was allowed to get so old, after all, is because they’ve played so well for so long. But it was time to move on.
Remaining Free Agents: