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Safeties in numbers
April 21, 2018 12:00 PM | Mike Prisuta
The secondary is transitioning this offseason, but the new free safety might already be on the roster.

The options in the search for Mike Mitchell's replacement could include strong safety Sean Davis.

"We haven't really talked about who's in what position yet," cornerback Joe Haden offered this week. "Sean, I think he could definitely be a free safety, though. He's the dude I could see definitely being able to cover sideline to sideline and with his tackling, he's going to be able to get people down."

Mitchell and last season's 'dime' cornerback, William Gay, are among the departures from the 2017 team.

Safeties Morgan Burnett and Nat Berhe have arrived via free agency.

And next week's NFL Draft may provide an additional resource or two with which to work.

Haden and the Steelers are pondering the possibilities at present with more of a handle on the job descriptions on the back end than the specific division of labor.

"At the free safety spot we just need a guy that's a sure tackler, be able to go sideline to sideline, being over the top of the corners, being able to just be the blanket over the defense," Haden said. "If anything breaks it's a 20-yard gain and not a 50-yard gain.

"And with the 'dime,' somebody that's very smart, that can blitz, can cover, knows the defense very well. And with Cam Sutton and with Mike Hilton and with the body types and people that we have in there (in the defensive backs room) we have a lot of guys we know can cover the third receiver and cover the tight end.

"We have a lot of competition here. We have a lot of talent in that room. We'll be able to see during OTAs, we'll see during training camp. Whoever's playing, whoever's ballin' I know the coaches are going to put the best people on the field."

It'll be up to the entire defense, Haden maintained, to compensate for the absence of inside linebacker Ryan Shazier in 2018.

"It's going to be a big loss for us," Haden said. "Having a guy like him with that much speed, with that much knowledge of the game, who can get from sideline to sideline; the biggest thing, I keep saying it, is discipline.

"We have to be able to be on the same page and just not have 'busts' (blown coverages) on defense. If we have busts, then that's going to be the reason why we get beat. If we just have a man on man, if everybody knows who they have, then I think we'll be good to go."

And better, hopefully, than the Steelers were on defense in their 45-42 playoff loss to Jacksonville.

"You're always as good as your last game, so it was kinda tough," Haden said. "We know we can do better. We know we have a lot of room to grow. We're looking forward to it.

"We've been watching the tape on it now, just figuring out how we can communicate a little better as far as the defensive backs, the linebackers working together, figuring out combination coverages, bumping things, little discipline stuff. It wasn't really too much of them beating you when you had your man. It was just more communication, people switching and trying to figure out who has who.

"It's not really a skill thing. I felt like it was more communication."
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