When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Sean Davis in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, it was immediately obvious that they were taking him with the idea that he would be worked into the starting lineup sooner or later. I’m not sure how many realized that it would happen in the middle of his rookie season.
Davis made his first start at strong safety on Sunday and played every snap, making three tackles and recording a pass deflection. That deflection is actually a ball that he should have intercepted…but we will get to that.
The rookie spent the vast majority of the first three quarters of the game playing in the box, at times at the line of scrimmage, as well as a lot of time running down the seam with the Browns’ tight ends. He even covered wide receivers at times.
His first tackle of the game came late in the first half. On the opening play of a drive, the Browns looked to execute a wide receiver screen, though it wasn’t entirely executed smoothly. Davis was left with a clear path to the ball carrier and made a nice form tackle on the assist, which is what I want to highlight here.
Later on the same drive, he shifted pre-snap from the edge back to about five yards off the ball. On a running play off the right side, Davis initially worked around the edge of the pulling lineman, but were it not for the running back getting bottled up, he may not have been in position to clean the play up, which went for a two-yard loss.
His final tackle came on the final play of the third quarter, but the aspect that I want to focus on on this play is Davis’ coverage on the tight end. He stuck right with him up the seam and then toward the sideline. After a missed tackle, he sped down into the play on an underneath throw to make the tackle after a three-yard gain.
He later blitzed a couple of times, which the Steelers actually set up well, given how much he played in the box throughout the game without blitzing. Playing off the line with a tight end set as an in-line blocker, he blitzed the right-side B Gap and had a great shot at the sack. The play was there, he just needs to finish it.
The Steelers also blitzed him on the final play of that drive, which ended in an interception. This time, the back was able to get to him late just as he was closing in on the quarterback. Had that not happened, he may have been able to disrupt the pass.
He nearly made up for that early on the Browns’ next drive when he stepped in front of the tight end’s route and had the football come right into his chest. He knows as well as anybody that this should have been six points the other way.
Overall, it was neither a flashy nor poor first start for Davis, who showed some potential, as well as some kinks to work out. The Steelers are clearly intent on riding with him through his growing pains.