Depending on who the Steelers add in free agency; we very well could be looking at a young buck starting next to Mike Mitchell.
Although the Steelers secondary made some strides last season, the glaring need for another safety loomed large throughout the year. Mike Mitchell stepped up in a big way. Will Allen and Robert Golden played well enough, but nothing spectacular.
I don’t see any chance that Will Allen will be brought back, and I think Robert Golden will be back, he’s more of an ace on special teams than at safety. There’s always the chance of Eric Weddle coming to Pittsburgh, and while I’d love for Weddle to wear the Black & Gold, a free-agent signing only fixes the problem temporarily.
Now, let’s take a look at a player that I’d like to see waving a Terrible Towel.
Haling from Boise State, safety Darian Thompson is a total ball-hawk. He has a knack for locating the ball in the air and making a play on it. He’s a hard hitter, who can also pay close attention to the eyes of the opposing quarterback.
During his freshman season, Thompson appeared in every one of the Broncos’ 13 games, in which he started in the final six games of the season. He finished his first year with 43 total tackles (28 solo), finished second in total interceptions (3) and broke up three passes.
The numbers would climb for Thompson in his second year. He started all 13 games for the Broncos, finishing with 63 total tackles (34 solo) and 1.5 for a loss, and picked off 4 passes.
In his junior and senior seasons, Thompson became a staple on the back-end for the Boise State Broncos. He had a combined 12 interceptions, 136 total tackles (87 solo) and 13.5 for a loss in his final two seasons.
In the games that I watched, Thompson was always around the ball. He’s excels at closing in quickly and bringing down the ballcarrier. Since Thompson has great speed, I don’t see him needing to play much on the line. You could easily put him ten yards away from the line on run support.
One play that I’d like to point out.
Against Hawaii (2015), On 3rd and 2 in the first-quarter, the QB was in shotgun with the RB to his left. The ball was handed off to the RB who ran left, Thompson came in quickly and stopped him from getting a first-down. Now, I have no doubt that would’ve been a first-down, the other defenders wouldn’t have gotten there in time, but Thompson closed in quickly and made the play. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, Thompson was ten yards from the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped. Did I mention that?
First off, I LOVE ball-hawking safeties. There’s nothing like a safety that always needs to get the ball in his hands. In the same game against Hawaii, Thompson was playing bitt off of the receiver, what looked liked a completed catch, wasn’t. Thompson swarmed in and picked it off. It was pretty amazing. Go watch it. I provided the link above. It happened in the second quarter. Also, against Nevada (2014), the QB was about to be sacked, and tried to throw the ball away, but Thompson picked off before it fell out of bounds. BALL. HAWKING. SAFETIES. Oh, how I love them.
Thompson has the tendency to let guys get behind him. Which is obviously something you can’t have happen as an NFL safety. I saw it at least once in each of the games that I watched on him. Against Nevada , he got caught out of position after one of his CB got beat, and allowed a TD. I really didn’t see anything else negative that stood out. Everybody gets beat once in awhile.
In closing, Darian Thompson is a ball-hawking, hard hitting, consistent safety. He’s good in man coverage, and a great asset to have in run support. I’m new at this, but I think he’d pair well with Mike Mitchell. I’d love to see him in a Steelers uniform, but this is the NFL; and anything could happen.