The time has come for the Pittsburgh Steelers to begin the search for a long-term solution at the strong safety position.
When it had become apparent that Troy Polamalu was more of a liability than an asset to the Steelers’ secondary after he missed a multitude of games in two of his last three seasons, the organization felt that it was time for their 2003 first round draft selection to move on after twelve years.
Shamarko Thomas was slated to be next in line to claim the spot left vacant by Polamalu after his unceremonious retirement, but did not show signs of progression to indicate he was ready to take hold of the reins in a lackluster 2015 preseason. Will Allen was named starter before the opening game against the New England Patriots.
When Allen was forced to the sidelines for three weeks due to an ankle injury, Thomas was passed up once again in favor of backup safety Robert Golden. This further proved that the coaching staff is was not ready to trust Thomas with even a short-term starting role.
The Steelers will begin the new league year with both Allen and Golden listed as unrestricted free agents. While resigning either of the two would go a long way in making sure the Steelers have adequate depth at safety, they must take the steps necessary to begin searching for a long-term safety to pair with Mike Mitchell.
Since 2011, the Steelers have drafted three former Ohio State Buckeyes within the first rounds of the draft. Cameron Heyward and Ryan Shazier were both taken in the first rounds of 2011 and 2014, while Doran Grant was selected in the fourth round last year. This is no surprise due to the school’s penchant to produce talent with NFL ability.
A majority of Steelers’ Nation are calling for the team to draft Ohio State’s Von Bell to fortify the secondary with talented youth, but it is unlikely that he will be on the draft board if Pittsburgh waits to address the safety position. If so, they may be able to acquire a teammate of Bell’s that can have a promising NFL career.
Tyvis Powell, defensive back, Ohio State.
A two year starter in the Buckeyes’ backfield, Powell performed exceptionally well in a secondary loaded with talent. He earned All-Big Ten honors in 2014 with 76 tackles, four defended passes, four interceptions and a forced fumble along with a National Championship victory in which he was named Defensive MVP against the Oregon Ducks with nine tackles and a defended pass.
Powell left Ohio State with a degree in marketing, a National Championship ring, a total of 195 tackles (3.5 for a loss), eight interceptions, nine defended passes, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery to his credit. He enters the 2016 draft with a slue of other members from the 2014 championship team hoping to continue his winning trend as a professional.
Standing at 6’2″ and weighing nearly 210 lbs, Powell displays the size and athleticism that could translate into a great starting safety in the NFL. He shows vast potential in man coverage, which is an area Will Allen struggled mightily in last season, giving up a lot of ground to offenses due to his lack of speed. With speed and intellect, having Powell in the backfield would be an instant upgrade to areas the Steelers have struggled in.
Powell put on a great display during this year’s Senior Bowl, lobbying that he is more than “the guy that was on the same team as Eli Apple and Von Bell.” He made plenty of plays during practice week, one in which he picked off Cody Kessler in the end zone to keep tight end, and former teammate, Nick Vannett from scoring. Covering tight ends was yet another area where Allen struggled last year.
The talented defensive back has a knack for putting himself in great opportunities to make plays on the ball. His vertical ability allows him to launch himself in the air at high points, using his ball skills to secure interceptions. Powell has the ability to play either safety position, which would allow Mike Mitchell to move to strong safety, or keep the role that he has played for the past two seasons.
At times he struggled to make secure tackles on his opponents due to not being able to bring them down with enough force. Often times he had to be assisted in wrapping up ball carriers. Adding some mass to his frame and refining his tackling technique will help aid him in bringing down the opposition on his own.
With so many talented safeties such as Jalen Ramsey, Karl Joseph, Von Bell, Jeremy Cash, Jalen Mills, and DeAndre Houston-Carson in this year’s draft, Powell falls under the radar among so many highly sought after safeties. He is easily a second round talent with upside, but could fall into the third round…which would benefit the Steelers in their attempt to draft quality talent with two draft picks missing this year.
Tyvis Powell is a tremendously talented safety with the ability to become a starter on any defense in the NFL. If the Pittsburgh Steelers wish to strengthen their ailing secondary, making him one of their potential draft selections will go a long way in doing just that.