Despite the fact that the play of Sean Davis has been one of the key ingredients of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive turnaround in recent weeks, it isn’t something that we have spent a lot of time taking into the lab, so that’s what I’m trying to rectify here.
Davis led all players on both sides of the football with eight tackles, and he even added a ninth tackle on special teams, which occurred on the Steelers’ final punt. That was a critical play that he had to run a long way to make, as, as you might recall, Pittsburgh was only up by one possession at the time. But this is a focus on his defensive tackling.
The free safety is the last line of defense, not just in the passing game but in the running game as well, and this is something that Ryan Clark used to do a great job of. Davis showed that ability here in putting a stop to a 10-yard run early on, the Ravens’ longest rush of the day, filling the alley and making a strong tackle.
I like this play in coverage as well, with Alex Collins receiving a checkdown. One of Davis’ biggest issues has been losing himself in space, but he tracked the at-times elusive Collins and prevented him from cutting into open grass, limiting him to four yards. Of course, Jon Bostic also receives credit here for pinching him in.
John Brown was a bit of a terror for the Steelers last time around, and has been a YAC problem for the league for years. So when Davis cut him down after a five-yard route on third and 10 in the third quarter to force the Ravens to punt, it goes down as a big play in my book.
In the fourth quarter, the Steelers initially aligned with two high safeties, with Terrell Edmunds drifting to center field after the snap. Davis had a four-route pattern to cover on his side of the field, including a late motion, but had little trouble closing quickly on a six-yard Willie Snead pass and, again, making a strong tackle in the open field to limit damage.
Davis did miss one tackle in the game from what I can recall, but overall he has certainly had his best season yet in this department, so perhaps the move to free safety was to the benefit of both the player and the unit as a whole.