2016 South Side Questions: What Is Sean Davis’ Role Going Forward?

The regular season is here, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are taking their practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the real work is now upon us, there is plenty left to be done.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they wade through a regular season in which they are, at least supposed to be, among the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

Question: What is Sean Davis’ role moving forward?

When the Pittsburgh Steelers opened the season, they did so with the prospect of rookie second-round defensive back logging upwards of 700 or more snaps as their designated slot cornerback, a role that was somewhat thrust upon him due to circumstances.

Though he was drafted to be a safety, his versatility with having played cornerback in college put him in play in the slot, and when their intended slot defender, Senquez Golson, suffered a foot injury, Davis was the next man up.

This was part of the domino effect of being unprepared to field a pair of boundary corners that they could rely upon that did not include William Gay. But since then, the coaching staff has determined that Artie Burns, the rookie first-round cornerback, is ready to step in as their outside defender in the nickel, pushing Gay into the slot.

The coaching staff has voiced its belief that they would probably like to scale things back for Davis, likely meaning limiting him to playing one position if they could help it. He played extensively, primarily as a slot defender, as recently as on Sunday, but his role is inevitably changing.

It is not even altogether clear if he would be part of the team’s dime or quarter package, considering that safety Jordan Dangerfield has done a commendable job stepping in at Robert Golden’s spot. In their quarter package earlier this year, Davis would step into Golden’s role as he slides into the box.

Dangerfield could serve that function, or be the defender who slides into the box, in the quarter package, but the Steelers could also make more use of four-cornerback looks, which they have dabbled with in the past two weeks, now that they are comfortable with where Justin Gilbert is.

Adding all of this up, it’s not altogether clear that there is any obvious path toward playing time right now for Davis, and certainly no obvious need to play him. Like Shamarko Thomas in his rookie season, he could go from playing fairly often to not playing at all.

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