Pittsburgh Steelers rookie second-round draft pick Sean Davis did dress for Sunday night’s victory over the Chiefs, but as we learned by the end of the game, his ‘active’ status was nearly a semantic designation, as he did not play a single snap on defense, nor did he participate on special teams until the last punt return, which he likely only played because of Darrius Heyward-Bey’s shoulder injury.
Of course, the reason that he dressed is likely quite simple: he was one of only 47 players on the team’s 53-man roster that were not ruled out for Sunday’s game by Friday. Davis had to sit out the early practice sessions during the week after suffering a back injury against the Eagles, but he managed to return to practice in some capacity by the end of the week.
That officially earned him a ‘Questionable’ designation for the game, but with the loss of the ‘Probable’ designation, it’s hard to decipher just what that means. Of course, the fact that they already had their seven inactive players made up by their list of players who were injured and unable to even practice made that a moot point.
In fact, really the only good glimpse that we got of the second-round pick throughout the entire broadcast was a shot of him riding the stationary bike on the sidelines, which I believe was at some point during the second half of the game.
If Robert Golden is able to make it back for the next game, and Davis is unable to go through a full week of practice, given the way that Jordan Dangerfield performed in his first regular-season action of his career, one wonders if they might not choose to sit him—or at least not play him, depending on how stuffed the inactive list is with injured players.
It has generally been the case throughout Mike Tomlin’s tenure that rookies who do not go through a full week of practice do not play, and that would especially be true of rookies who are expected to be significant contributors.
After last week’s game, Davis suggested to reporters that he likely would have been better off sitting out the rest of the game, believing that he may have made his back issue worse by continuing to play. That would suggest that some period of rest is in order, and clearly the Steelers did not feel it warranted the risk to play him on Sunday night.
In the meantime, other young defensive backs like Artie Burns and Dangerfield are gaining valuable in-game experience, although Davis’ role will remain a crucial one when considering the fact that he is one of only two cornerback-capable players that they are fully comfortable lining up on the slot, at least on a consistent basis.
Until Davis returns, the Steelers will have to continue to mix and match who lines up where and when in the secondary, with William Gay bouncing between playing on the inside in their base nickel defense and moving to the boundary when they utilize a 3-4 front.