Steelers Prospect Watch: Su’a Cravens


Here’s the first edition of our new Steelers Prospect Watch analyzing USC safety/linebacker hybrid Su’a Cravens.

Will 2015 be the year that the Pittsburgh Steelers finally invest a first-round pick into a viable, Pro Bowl-level defensive back?

The Steelers have slept on this glaring need for the entire decade, attempting to fill gaping holes in the secondary with oft-injured Cortez Allen, journeymen William Gay and Will Allen as well as undrafted free-agent Antwon Blake among others.

Aside from Cortez Allen—who likely would be released had it not been for the four-year $24 million deal he signed in 2014—all of those players listed above are to become free agents this offseason. Given Blake’s progression into a serviceable starting cornerback and his youth, it seems that resigning Blake would be the most logical of moves.

That being said, Pittsburgh will be dealt with revamping their entire secondary once again. “The Steeler Way” dictates that you must build through the draft. What better way to do that than to draft arguably the most talented safety prospect in the draft, University of Southern California’s Su’a Cravens. The good news is, he’s already a Steelers fan.

Before jumping to any hasty conclusions, there are a lot of similarity between Cravens and fellow USC Trojan Troy Polamalu.

Just like Polamalu, the third team All-American Cravens is an exceptional blitzer and run-stuffer. He ammassed 34 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. He’s also made plays on the back end, intercepting nine passes and forcing four fumbles in three seasons as a starter for the Trojans. He was able to make some nice plays against Heisman Trophy Candidate Christian McCaffery when the Trojans played the Stanford Cardinal.

Cravens split time at both safety and linebacker at USC, but may projectors have him playing safety at the next level. At 6’1″ and 225 pounds, Cravens would fit a mold similar to Seattle’s Kam Chancellor in terms of his size. Cravens can lay the wood and will not be bullied by some of the bigger tight ends in the AFC such as New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce.

That being said, Cravens has struggled against quick and shifty slot receivers. Cravens has speed, but currently lacks the elite lateral quickness that elite coverage safeties in the NFL have. However, Cravens’ skill-set would fit Keith Butler‘s scheme perfectly.

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Since the decline and eventual retirement of Polamalu, the Steelers’ defense has lacked a play-making presence. Currently, the Steelers have a +4 turnover margin, which is their first positive mark since 2010 when Polamalu won the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award. The 2015 Steelers defense is arguably the team’s best defensive unit since that 2010 team, which was a group who advanced to Super Bowl XLV.

The addition of a player such as Cravens would help the Steelers move away from 33-year-old Will Allen. Allen has been one of the more consistent players on Pittsburgh’s defense this season, but likely will not last much longer in today’s NFL. The Steelers still need to see what they have in 2015 second-round pick Senquez Golson who was lost for the season due to a shoulder injury.

While there may be better coverage safeties in the 2015 draft class, there is no better play maker than Cravens.

For every time Polamalu was burned on the back end in coverage, he made two or three great plays to make up for it. Polamalu was never an elite coverage safety, but there arguably has never been a better play maker in the history of the NFL.

Next: Steelers Sunday Night game to be flexed.

If Cravens elects to become a full-time safety at the next level, he is a player that the Steelers cannot ignore in the first round. Even as a hybrid safety/linebacker, Cravens could be an interesting selection and gadget for Butler and the Steelers defense.