Will the Pittsburgh Steelers select a safety early or late in the NFL Draft?
With the NFL Draft nearing, the Steelers continue their preparation for April 28. The front office has been busy trying to find the next generation of stars for the Black & Gold, especially in the secondary.
So far this offseason, the Steelers have resigned cornerback Willie Gay and safety Robert Golden to multiple year deals. Though cornerback is a critical need the safety spot remains an issue. Will Allen will not return next season. Mike Mitchell, Shamarko Thomas and Golden are the only safeties on the roster with playing time last year. Ross Ventrone played on special teams but did not see any snaps on defense.
Do the Steelers now look for the draft to add depth at safety? If they do, will it be early, late or will they double dip on safeties in this draft? A player the Steelers could target at the tail end of this draft or even as an undrafted free agent is Wisconsin’s Michael Caputo.
Pittsburgh high school football fans should remember Caputo. He starred at running back for West Allegheny High School, leading them to the 2009 WPIAL Championship. In his two seasons at West Allegheny, I had the tremendous fortune of playing with Caputo. From a character standpoint, he was one of the most humble guys I ever had a chance played with, someone you want in your foxhole. A true war daddy as our coach Bob Palko would put it.
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At West Allegheny, Caputo was known for his powerful running style that was similar to former Stanford running back Toby Gerhart. But as Badger, he became known for dishing out hits like former All-Pro John Lynch. In 2014, Caputo became the first non-linebacker to lead Wisconsin in tackles since Jim Leonhard co-led the team in 2003, racking up 106. His tackles dipped to 65 in 2015, but he was still honored with his second straight 2nd team All-Big Ten selection.
Caputo is one of the toughest safety in this draft. In 2012, he endured a protruding disc in his spinal cord throughout much of the season, opting for surgery after the Rose Bowl even against doctors’ wishes. It was initially unclear whether Caputo would ever play football again. A second opinion revealed he could resume playing after a 12 week recovery. The will and determination Caputo has is something you cannot coach, you either have it or you don’t.
Caputo possesses a great football IQ as well. He is able to read and react on the fly in both the run and passing game. Despite only having three interceptions at Wisconsin, Caputo snagged two picks in the East-West Shrine Game, including a near pick-six against his former teammate Joel Stave. For his efforts in the game, he earned Defensive MVP. His performance did not earn him a invite to the Senior Bowl or Scouting Combine. If Caputo was given the opportunity to perform on either stage, his draft stock would have soared.
Getting a player with Caputo’s toughness and ability as a 7th rounder or undrafted free agent is a steal. Though he has yet to visit the Steelers, this does not mean he is not on their radar. Caputo would be a special teams demon while learning the defense Shamarko is the only player at this position and as been a bit of disappoint. A player like Caputo could push him for the job, possibly even start.
Whether he ends up in the Black & Gold or not, I have total confidence Caputo will succeed in the NFL.