Troy Polamalu was, at worst, the second best safety in the game (depending on if you preferred him or Ed Reed).
Ryan Clark, while not an all-pro talent, did make one pro bowl. He worked his way from being an undrafted free agent, to a punishing run defender and key cog on two Superbowl rosters.
Troy Polamalu proved he’s even more versatile than anyone even thought prior to the 2013 season, playing linebacker for most of the season. While he certainly didn’t look like a defensive player of the year anymore, he was still one of the most important pieces of the Steelers defense.
Ryan Clark, however, looked old. Clark has obviously seen the writing on the wall himself. That was clear when Clark spent much of last off-season in Bristol, Connecticut working for ESPN. Clark is a free agent, and I wouldn’t expect to see him playing this year.
Troy is a little different. His situation gets dicey because he has one season left on his contract, that will pay him 8.25 million in 2014. That’s too much for the Steelers to take.
However, Art II has already stated he wants Troy to retire a Steeler. Art all but said flat out that Troy will receive a contract extension. Obviously that will depend on how much he’s demanding, but I wouldn’t expect Troy or his agent to be unreasonable.
That leaves a hole at the starting FS spot for next season, and only second year man Shamarko Thomas, and third year man Robert Golden (Will Allen’s contract has expired).
I could see those two fighting it out in camp to take over the spot. Although Shamarko is probably the superior player, Golden has more experience in the system and is a better fit for the Free Safety spot.
I’m a big fan of Shamarko Thomas but his game fits the Strong Safety spot better in my opinion.
There’s also the possibility of a cheap free agent addition coming in the way Ryan Clark did so many years ago.
Nate Allen and Malcolm Jenkins were guys highly touted out of college, but have disappointed. Both are still young however, and could possibly grow under Carnell Lake’s tutelage.
There’s also a possibility of Will Allen returning and holding down the spot for a season until a younger option would be ready to take over.
I wouldn’t expect to see a rookie come in and start, but I could see a safety being taken in the mid-rounds to hopefully pair with Shamarko Thomas in a couple of years.