2017 South Side Questions: Should Steelers Continue 3-Safety Look?

The regular season is now over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the playoffs as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to playoff success, in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: Should the Steelers continue to use the three-safety look that they showed at times against the Dolphins on Sunday?

The Steelers are generally seen as a fairly traditional defense that does a lot of unconventional things within that framework. I’m not so sure how well that reputation still holds up these days, particularly over the course of the past two seasons, but generally, they are still using the same template they have for a good, long while.

Still, they show a variety of looks from time to time, and one package that they have very sporadically shown this season has been a three-safety look with five or fewer defensive backs on the field. They have even used it in the 3-4, taking Artie Burns off the field.

It was a successful look on Sunday against the Dolphins in stopping the run, though, of course, it was a very small sample size, but the Steelers were obviously also committed to limiting Miami’s running game after what happened the last time, as should go without saying.

With Robert Golden out with an injury, the coaching staff used Jordan Dangerfield, the ‘veteran’ first-year player who started three games in place of Golden earlier this year, as the third safety, and he managed to make an assisted tackle for his efforts.

Taking the Chiefs next week, who run a pretty balanced offense, all things considered, without a substantial vertical presence, it would seem on paper to make sense to continue the sporadic usage of this sub-package.

The Steelers have toyed with the quarter defense over the course of the past two years, but seem to have fallen out of favor with it now. I can’t remember the last time they have had six defensive backs on the field. But I could see them continuing to make use of the ‘big nickel’, with two cornerbacks and three safeties on the field.

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Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Given our current personnel, I would actually prefer we go with an extra CB instead.

    If the opposing team wants to run out of a passing formation, let them run. But we can’t have a back up safety covering one of Tom Brady’s quick little WR’s. We need more quickness out there.

    On a related side note, it will be very interesting to see if the Steelers draft a coverage free safety type in the first 3 rounds this year. If we want to run that package we need a 3rd “starting” caliber safety. Plus he could act as solid depth in case of injury. We’re a bit light at safety right now, even if all were healthy.

  • Steve Johnson

    If it works, why not? K.C. will be a tough team to beat. If they limit the turnovers, I think they can do it. However, Their QB is quite mobile, they better be cautious when blitzing.

  • I see no problem with throwing different packages out there to try to confuse opposing QBs. Tomlin always talks about being multiple, right?

    If they are using 3 safeties and playing a type of Tampa 2 where its 3 safelties deep instead of running Timmons or Shazier back there, then I’m for it. Also it may be good for a nickle cover 3 look leaving all the safeties with deep 3rds and the CBs in man or with hook, or flat zones. Its always good to experiment a bit, especially when facing an animic offense such as KC who does not threaten offense down field.

  • pittfan

    Whatever it takes to keep Kelsey from killing us is fine with me

  • budabar

    If we make it to New England we’ll need to break out our new 4 CB 4 safety look

  • Michael Mosgrove

    quarter is effective for long passes but weak vs short.

  • nutty32

    All this stuff really got started with Cowher’s response against the Oilers run-n-shoot in ’92/’93. So many great athletes on that squad. Every team now responds in kind to counter today’s pass happy game.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    what needs to change is the stupid special teams run around with dangerfield coming up from behind. higher chance of illegal block in the back then good it has done.

  • Zuami Montanez

    Stop under estimating K.C, thats a solid football team with a good ST unit.

  • Tim Clark

    Last time we played the chiefs we had gilbert lined up with kelce on multiple snaps.

  • Jeff Burton

    The best thing the Steelers have done in the second half of the season is line Shazier on the edge. They’ve been doing about 4 or 5 times a game. Sometimes he rushes sometimes he drops back in coverage. Either way it gives O.C.s a fit.

  • Alex Kozora

    Well that was used twice for one game…