No player over the past three seasons has had to deal with more uncertainty about where he would be playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers than has Sean Davis, a 2016 second-round pick out of Maryland. He began his career as the team’s nickel defender before transitioning to strong safety.
Entering his third season, after the team decided to release Mike Mitchell, the decision was made to give Davis the opportunity for what he hopes is one final move, that to free safety, a role that he has openly talked about as being recognizably different from anything he had been asked to do before, and which required a learning curve.
But, as he told Jeremy Fowler, he said that it “feels great to finally just know where I’m going to be at each play”. He added, jokingly, “I don’t know if I should tell myself that [it’s going well] because they might move me next year”.
While it’s not necessarily reflected in the stat sheet, Davis is off to his most stable season yet in year three. At 52 tackles, he is not on pace for a career-high there. He has only three passes defensed after eight a year ago, and has not intercepted a pass (though he came close last week, and had one negated by penalty in week one), nor has he forced a fumble.
But for the most part, he has been a key force in helping the defense keep a lid on opposing offense during the course of their prolonged winning streak, and he has been a solid tackler, even if not without error.
In contrast to previous free safeties—not just Mitchell, but Ryan Clark as well—David told Fowler that he’s “not really worried about knocking people out”. Instead, “I’m really concerned with being a solid tackler”.
That is something that Coty Sensabaugh has observed as well, saying, “I think he’s the best-tackling free safety in the league”. Now, I don’t actually agree with that at all, but it would be disingenuous to deny the clear strides he has made.
And he should continue to get better as he gets more playing time at the free safety spot. It’s worth remembering that he even spent a lot of time actually playing cornerback late in his collegiate career, so he has been asked to wear a number of hats over the span of the past five years.
2019 will be the final year of Davis’ rookie contract, which means that he will be in line for an extension (as will Javon Hargrave). As a presumably entrenched starter, it’s quite likely that gets done some time in the summer. Then perhaps we will see an extended period of time for the tandem of Davis and Terrell Edmunds to grow into an elite duo at the safety spot.