The Pittsburgh Steelers have the roster of a Super Bowl contender but possess precious little depth at several positions on defense.
The team has taken a step toward addressing that problem by signing free-agent safety Curtis Riley, this according to NFL Network/NFL.com Insider Ian Rapoport
Free agent safety Curtis Riley, who started three games for the #Raiders last year, is signing with the #Steelers, source said. He took a physical there today. In 2018, he was an every down starter for the #Giants.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 30, 2020
As Rapoport notes, Riley started three games for the Raiders last season, contributing 27 solo tackles and two tackles for loss, while also forcing a fumble.
A Starter for the New York Giants in 2018
More notably, Riley started 16 games at free safety for the New York Giants in 2018, amassing 75 total tackles, including 63 solo tackles. He also intercepted four passes and added five passes defensed, returning one of those interceptions for a touchdown.
Riley originally came into the NFL in 2015, signing as an undrafted free-agent with the Tennessee Titans. He appeared in 11 games with the Titans over two years and had an interception in 2017. His move from the Titans to the Giants may have been influenced by the presence of former Steelers defensive back Deshea Townsend, who was the Giants’ assistant defensive backs coach in 2018 after serving as defensive backs coach with the Titans. He’s also a native of White Plains, N.Y. a suburb in the New York City metropolitan area.
Riley played his college football at Fresno State University, where he was responsible for 98 tackles and 15 passes defensed over the course of two seasons. He also had one interception, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He came to Fresno State by way of Fullerton College, and before that, Division II Mars Hill College in North Carolina.
A COVID-19 Influenced Signing?
The Steelers suddenly became a little short-handed in the secondary this week, with cornerback Justin Layne added to the COVID-19 list yesterday, and defensive back Arrion Springs going on the same Reserve list just days earlier. Riley’s experience starting games for two different NFL teams has its appeal, but he has also logged a lot of snaps on special teams over the course of his career.
He’s the second free-agent to sign with the Steelers this week, following in the footsteps of former Washington running back Wendell Smallwood, who entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft choice of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Meanwhile, both inside and outside linebacker are positions where the Steelers could look to add depth in the coming weeks. While Pittsburgh’s linebacker corps has been rated best in the AFC North, there is little experience behind T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Devin Bush and Vince Williams, the starters at outside and inside linebacker, respectively.
This year the Steelers defense will be aiming to set a new franchise sack record with four consecutive seasons of 50+ sacks, something that no NFL team has accomplished since the 1980s.
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