Next up in our series of looking at the current state of the Steelers roster and how the outlook for 2012 could be is the Safety position:
Troy Polamlu: Troy just finished up his 9th season with the Steelers, totaling 91 Tackles, 2 Interceptions, & 1 Sack. He played and started in all 16 games, something he hasn’t been able to do in 4 or the 5 preceding seasons. Other than the concussion like symptoms that he suffered against the Chiefs, he’s been able to stay pretty healthy. At 30 years old he’s still got a good 3-4 years left in him if he can continue to avoid any more serious injuries. When Polamalu is not on the field it’s very noticeable, the defense just isn’t quite the same. His ability to roam the line of scrimmage, stay back in coverage, anticipate the snap count or rush from 20 yds away is something very few players, if any, can do even still in the league. He was a top priority heading into the 2011 season so the Steelers made sure they got him locked up for another 4 years. His salary cap hit is 6.25 million so expect the front office to do a restructure with him to help free up money. 2012 Outlook: Troy will return to his usual starting Strong Safety position and continue to be an anchor for the secondary.
Ryan Clark: He will be entering his 11th year in the NFL next season, and his 7th with the Steelers. Since Bill Cowher brought him over from Washington he’s been a staple opposite Polamalu. Clark had the best season of his career with 100 Tackles, 1 Interception, and 1 Sack. He was the team leader in Tackles as well. He was able to play in and start all 16 regular season games. His presence was missed in the Wildcard round in Denver, when the Steelers secondary got torched by Tim Tebow and eventually lost. Equally as important as the number of take downs Clark has been able to register this season, was his ability to evolve his game. He’s no longer just looking for the bone crushing, mind rattling, epic hit. While he can still dish those out, he’s turned himself into more of a form tackler, making sure the ball carrier is stopped first and foremost. That change in his game made him even more important to the defense and also helps keep the league out of his checkbook. He is signed through the 2013 season and his cap hit for 2012 is a modest 2.25 million. 2012 Outlook: There’s no reason to think that Clark won’t return to lineup as a starter next year.
Ryan Mundy: Ryan is a Restricted Free Agent this offseason, so the Steelers will tender him an offer and give themselves the right to match anything he gets from another team (should he choose to look elsewhere). At this point there’s no reason to think they won’t do so, he’s been a very good special teamer and overall a solid Safety. He won’t blow your mind with a spectacular play on Sunday afternoons, but he’s a very capable player and solid on special teams as well. Ryan played in all 16 games in 2011 and finished up with 37 Tackles and 1 Interception in the regular season. He started for Ryan Clark against Denver in the playoffs due to Clark’s sickle cell trait, and for all intents and purposes had a decent game stat wise. His 5 Tackles and 2 Forced Fumbles were key to helping the Steelers get back into the game. However the only thing people will remember is the first play in overtime when he and teammate Ike Taylor were burned for a touchdown that ultimately ended the Steelers season. 2012 Outlook: It’s a safe bet that Mundy will return in 2012, he can play either position and the coaches like his ability to play both Safety spots. Although unlikely, if some other team were to offer him a huge payday the Steelers probably wouldn’t match it because of how tight against the cap they are.
Will Allen: He played in 9 games this past season, totaling 9 Tackles overall. Allen is a role player, coming in when the defense needs extra defensive backs on the field either due to scheme or injury. He also plays on special teams. Allen signed a 3 yr. deal with the Steelers in 2010 after spending the first part of his career with Tampa Bay. His cap hit for 2012 is 1.59 million, so he comes at a relatively cheap price for an experienced Safety. Will must finished up his 9th season so he’s still got several years left in the league. In 2010 he had 12 total tackles on the year, indicating that he doesn’t see the field much on defense but he is serviceable nonetheless. 2012 Outlook: A decent special teams player and experienced Safety at a bargain price. Unless the Seelers draft a Safety in the upcoming NFL draft, his job is probably secure.
Damon Cromartie-Smith: After spending the 2010 season being on and off the practice squad, he was able to see action in 2011 when the team signed him to the active roster on December 8th. He finished out the season with 3 special teams solo tackles. At 6’2″ 210 lbs. he’s got the size to play Safety in the NFL but there isn’t much room with Polamlu, Clark, and most likely Mundy returning next year. If he really wants to make a name for himself then pushing Will Allen down the depth chart would be a good way to start. 2012 Outlook: He’ll have a chance to be in training camp again and try to win a roster spot as a special teamer and reserve Safety
In Summary: I wouldn’t expect much change in this group heading into the new season. While both starters are certainly not spring chickens they do have several years left in them and are still capable of playing well. After all they were part of the league’s #1 pass defense this season. Within the next year or 2 though the Steelers will have to begin looking at the future and spending a premium draft pick to upgrade the secondary. It would wise though even for this coming draft to take a look at the mid round prospects and see what kind of young talent they might be able to groom for the future. There’s also been talk of moving Cornerback Will Gay to Safety next year, possibly working him into the lineup as a future replacement for Clark. That’s all speculation though at this point.