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Local Safety Hits Open Market, Could Steelers Be a Good Fit?



Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agent Target Safety Jordan Whitehead
Jordan Whitehead (9) tries to break up the pass to Anthony Ratliff-Williams (17) at Heinz Field on November 9, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. -- David Hague / Pittsburgh Sports Now

Former Pitt and Central Valley star safety Jordan Whitehead will play for a new NFL team in 2024. Could the Pittsburgh Steelers be a good fit for the local product?

According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, the New York Jets let four contracts void Friday morning, one of which was Whitehead’s. He signed a two-year, $14.5 million contract before the 2022 season which automatically voided, leaving 

Whitehead will likely be in high demand once again as he hits free agency, which opens on March 13 for the rest of the league. He’s shown his ability to be an experienced, proven NFL starter in six NFL seasons since being selected out of Pitt.

Could he be a fit with the Steelers? Pittsburgh has four safeties from 2023 under contract, as Minkah Fitzpatrick, Damontae Kazee, Keanu Neal and Trenton Thompson are all currently set to return. But it was a rough year for Neal, who never seemed to get into a rhythm while battling injuries, and is a candidate to be released. Kazee played well when he was used in relief of Minkah Fitzpatrick at free safety, but did not play as well when asked to go into the box. 

Whitehead was listed as the free safety for the Jets, but did play in the box a good bit. According to Pro Football Focus, 507 of his 1,076 snaps last season were as a free safety, with the rest involving him lining up closer to the line of scrimmage.

In 2023, Whitehead started all 17 games for the Jets, and he showcased an ability to change the course of a football game. In 17 games, he recorded 97 tackles (65 solo), three tackles for loss, a half sack, four interceptions and nine pass breakups. No Steelers player had more than two interceptions in 2023.

In two seasons with the Jets, starting all 34 games, he recorded 186 tackles (123 solo), seven tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, six interceptions and 17 pass breakups.

Before that, in four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he racked up 292 tackles (222 solo), 22 tackles for loss, two sacks, forced fumbles and recoveries, five interceptions and 25 passes defended in 59 games, starting 55 games.

The hard-hitting safety played an integral role on Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl-winning squad in 2021, and after his impact with the Jets, he should once again be expected to sign with an NFL team looking for a starting-caliber safety.

Whitehead, originally a four-star recruit at Pitt out of Central Valley High School in Monaca, Pa., recorded 235 tackles (162 solo), 8.5 tackles for loss, a half-sack, three interceptions, 12 passes defended and two defensive touchdowns in just 31 games at Pitt between 2015-17.

He was originally selected by the Buccaneers with a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

A version of this story originally appeared at our partner site, Pittsburgh Sports Now.