The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
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 offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Could the Steelers use Sean Davis as a coverage safety out of the slot in sub-packages?
One of the things that the Steelers liked best about Maryland safety Sean Davis when they drafted him in the second round last year was the fact that he had versatility as a defensive back who got time both at safety and cornerback, and they viewed him as a safety with coverage skills.
Now, that goes without saying, considering that they let him open his rookie season as the nickel slot defender. But he ended up in the starting lineup at strong safety in the second half of the season, and that will be his role for the next decade if everything goes according to plan.
But could there be a wrinkle thrown into the mix that utilizes his coverage skills more directly? The Steelers have coveted the ability to play a bigger defensive back body up in the box in coverage in their ‘quarter’ or ‘big nickel’ defenses, but haven’t had the personnel or timing to do it much.
Combined with the departure of Lawrence Timmons and the questions about Vince Williams’ ability to play in coverage, they may be inclined to exploring more options, even getting creative. One possibility would be putting a third safety on the field to play Davis’ role while allowing Davis to roll into the slot or cover a tight end or running back.
This could come out of either the quarter package, with three cornerbacks and three safeties, or the big nickel, with two cornerbacks and three safeties. Of course, by rote, there will be times when he is covering in the slot anyway, but what I’m talking about here is a deliberate tactical decision.
The Steelers didn’t hesitate to put a lot in his plate as a rookie, and he is much further along this May than last, so I don’t think it would be too much to ask of him if it’s something they are considering. If it isn’t, then perhaps they should, at least to see how it looks. Either Robert Golden or Jordan Dangerfield should be suitable to play in this scarce sub-package look.