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Analysis: Here’s why the Steelers might be so interested in another safety

April 18, 2018

The Steelers opened eyes with some draft-eligible invites to the South Side Tuesday. Our Joe Rutter reports that Stanford’s Justin Reid, Penn State’s Marcus Allen and Tarvarius Moore of Southern Miss were all at the headquarters.

This appears to be a layered approach. Reid is considered one of the best prospects at the position and is projected to be a late first-round pick. Moore is a late-rising athlete who wasn’t even invited to the combine that now has a Day 2 grade from some. And Allen was a highly productive college stand out that has some questions about raw athleticism at the next level and is thought to be a fourth-round talent.

Why might the Steelers be interested in drafting another safety as highly touted as Reid after signing Morgan Burnett in the offseason? Don’t they need an inside linebacker more?

First of all, good question. Secondly, yes.

Here’s the thinking that may go into why Kevin Colbert may be considering drafting one of these players late on Day 1 or somewhere on Day 2:

• They may not be able to get a first-round quality inside linebacker after all. Much like 2016, when Artie Burns was drafted, the Steelers have a clear-cut need when the draft is full of possible first-round players at that position.

But, again much like that year, they may all be gone by the time it’s their turn.

Four corners went off the board before Colbert and Mike Tomlin had a chance to take Burns at No. 25.

Many view the inside linebacker position being that way this year. Much of the NFL is struggling to make the transition to coverage capable inside linebackers like the Steelers had in Ryan Shazier.

Now that Shazier is out for 2018, the Steelers are in the same boat with everyone else.

Roquan Smith (Georgia), Rashaan Evans (Alabama), Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State), Malik Jefferson (Texas) and even Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech), who may be more of an edge guy, may be selected before they pick.

• Taking a safety would allow Cam Sutton to remain at cornerback. As former scout and ESPN Pittsburgh analyst Matt Williamson told us a few weeks ago, the Steelers could be considering moving him to safety to push Sean Davis.

Maybe one of these players can provide that challenger for Davis at the safety position alongside Burnett now instead, and Sutton can press Burns for playing time at corner.

• Adding a safety with coverage skills would give Keith Butler depth if the Steelers decide they want to play more dime — six defensive backs — this year.

Right now, a dime package likely would include Burnett and Davis at safety, with Joe Haden and Burns at the corners. Sutton and Mike Hilton would probably be the other two DBs capable of playing. The Steelers could then have “Rookie Safety X” ready to play for depth purposes instead of Coty Sensabaugh — who plays corner — if they so prefer.

They could even go with seven DBs, leaving Burnett to play a quasi-linebacker role if they wanted to in that instance. That’s something Burnett is capable of doing.

Another safety also means another candidate to help on special teams.