Pittsburgh Steelers safety Sean Davis found himself in an unfortunate position late in the Divisional Round playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs and it resulted in him being penalized for unnecessary roughness and for all we know at this point, potentially fined as well.
With 4:53 left in the fourth quarter, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith attempted to connect with wide receiver Chris Conley deep down the middle of the field on a 3rd and 9 play from the Steelers 24-yard-line and that’s when Davis found himself in an unfortunate spot. As Conley attempted to make a diving catch near the Steelers goal-line, Davis hit the wide receiver in the head and neck area with his lowered right shoulder. The football fell incomplete and Conley stayed down injured on the field for several minutes.
On Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked what he says to Davis about that hit against the Chiefs being as it looked like there was no real target area for him and thus no way to avoid an unnecessary roughness penalty outside of not hitting the wide receiver at all.
“I say to him what I say to all our defenders, that it’s as much a part of today’s NFL as blocking and tackling,” Tomlin said. “We work extremely hard to play within the rules because that increases our chances of winning. We work hard at lowering our target. We understand that it’s strict liability on the defender, but we also understand that due to circumstances sometimes that’s just tough. We all have tough aspects of our job and I think that Sean understands that element of safety play in today’s NFL. And I think all of those things happen in a discussion in a quick fashion in stadium, in game”
After that play was over and while Conley was still down on the field receiving medical attention, the television cameras showed Tomlin and a few other Steelers defensive coaches talking to Davis on the sideline. It really looked like Tomlin and the others were attempting to get Davis to move past the penalty and get ready to defend a red zone situation.
While the Chiefs ultimately scored a touchdown five plays after Davis was penalized, the Steelers rookie safety registered a huge pass breakup during the second two-point attempt try. In short, you can probably credit Davis for saving the game because of that play. On Tuesday, Tomlin talked about what led to Davis rising to the occasion after being penalized.
“Had a significant moment there with Sean Davis in Kansas City in terms of communicating,” started Tomlin. “We were defending a short field, he had gotten a penalty, he had sustained an injury. Just good clean communication, good look in his eye, the moment wasn’t too big for him. There’s a lot of things to be gleaned in those settings, not only from young guys, but from all of us.”
Davis has made several key plays during his first NFL season which ultimately ended with him being named the Steelers Rookie of the Year by the media. While he has been dealing with a shoulder injury for the last few weeks, Tomlin made sure to praise the Maryland product on Tuesday for how he’s dealt with that adversity as well.
“Sean Davis is still dealing with his shoulder injury. He has been managing it in-game for a number of weeks,” Tomlin said. “We appreciate his approach to it and his professionalism to it, not only in terms of dealing with it in-game, but just managing it in preparation for the game. I just visited with him downstairs. He is doing everything in his power to be at his best.”
The Steelers will certainly need Davis at his best again on Sunday when they play the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. While Davis did play in the Week 7 game against the Patriots, he only played 3 defensive snaps in that contest and that number will of course increase significantly in the rematch between the two teams for the right to play in Super Bowl LI.