Late last week it was revealed who some of the Steelers’ first visits to their facility would be this off-season. Probably the biggest name of the bunch was Duke strong safety Jeremy Cash.
Cash is viewed by some to be more of a linebacker than safety, as he does most of his work in the box, punishing running backs and any receivers coming over the middle of the field. Donte Whitner, who was released by the Browns over the weekend, has made a living doing just that for a decade now.
While I’m not sure Cash is necessarily the answer for the Steelers at strong safety (but he might be), I think that they do want whoever fills that spot to be a guy that plays primarily in the box. They may prefer a guy like Karl Joseph or Keanu Neal who are a little more well rounded, but my guess is Mike Mitchell will be handling most of the deep coverage duties.
The veteran safety, who once said he was going to legally change his named to Donte “Hitner” would be a welcomed addition to the Steelers secondary until a young draft pick was ready to take over the position full-time.
While Whitner doesn’t necessarily come to mind for best safeties in the NFL over the past 10 years, in spurts, he’s played at an elite level. Whitner was an integral part of the Harbaugh lead 49ers’ success just a few short season ago. In fact, in 2013 Pro Football Focus named Whitner as their second team all-pro strong safety, due to his exceptional coverage grades that season.
Whitner quickly became an enforcer in Cleveland, and believe it or not, was half of one of the best safety duos in the league in 2014 next to Tashaun Gipson.
If the Steelers hadn’t re-signed Robert Golden, I would say that Whitner would be a slam dunk signing. However, I think that the team currently views Golden as the day 1 starter at strong safety and will bridge the gap between Will Allen and a day 1 or 2 draft pick. There’s also the fact that Whitner may not view himself as the type of guy who needs to take a 1 or 2 year deal just to fill in. Honestly, at only 30 years old he could probably sign another 3 or 4 year deal somewhere and play the entire thing out.
For those reasons I don’t necessarily see it happening, however I think Whitner could step in and really be a great fit schematically right away.