How much money will Steelers be willing to spend at safety?
By Tommy Jaggi
The Pittsburgh Steelers have some big decisions to make this offseason, and choosing how to spend their money in the secondary is one of them.
The 2021 season showed us that the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t currently have a lot of things going for them. While they have three All-Pro-caliber players on their roster and several young building blocks, there are talent deficiencies around the rest of the team.
Fortunately, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert have more money to work with this offseason than they’ve had in years and they could clear up significantly more with a few no-brainer cuts to players like Joe Schobert and Zach Banner.
One question that needs to be addressed, however, is how much money are the Steelers willing to spend at the safety position this offseason?
While Pittsburgh didn’t have a ton of major strengths last year, safety was one of them. Minkah Fitzpatrick didn’t have the best start to his 2021 season, but he very much looked like an All-Pro during the second half of the year. Though he has one more year under contract, the Steelers will likely look to get an extension done with him during the 2022 offseason, as keeping Fitzpatrick is an easy decision.
However, things get a bit trickier after this. Terrell Edmunds has improved each of the past two seasons and is coming off the best year of his career. While he’s not a takeaway machine in the secondary, he has improved as a tackler and he uses his length and speed to match up against tight ends.
Should the Steelers pay Edmunds or another great safety?
Last offseason, Pittsburgh declined to give Edmunds the fifth-year option — meaning that he will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and will test the market. It’s hard to say exactly what Edmunds’ value will be, however.
Edmunds just turned 25 years old, has four years of starting experience, great speed, and elite size and length for the safety position. These factors could be enough to net him a big payday on free agency.
If the Steelers start to get into a bidding war, part of me wonders if it wouldn’t be a better idea to pay a few million extra to pair Fitzpatrick with another safety who can take the ball away at a high rate, like Jessie Bates or Marcus Williams.
Both Bates and Williams are free safeties by trade, but these positions are more interchangeable than they used to be. Having two elite safeties in the backend could make it nearly impossible for quarterbacks to pass the ball against a pair of ballhawks in a Cover 2 shell.
While it seems unlikely that Pittsburgh would devote this much money to the safety position (especially with so many other needs on the roster) it’s something worth considering, as there is no guarantee the Steelers will get Edmunds back in the price range they are hoping for.
In a free-agent class that has some interesting options at the safety position, the Steelers need to determine just how much they are willing to spend. Retaining Edmunds on a contract extension is no doubt what they are looking to do, but they need to be prepared to explore other options if he hits free agency.