Erik Estrada in CHiPs. Reginald VelJohnson in Die Hard (and Family Matters…and pretty much everything else). These are the cops you grew up watching. Pittsburgh Steelers safety Sean Davis is doing a little policing himself this season.
Moved to free safety before the start of 2018, Mike Tomlin praised the job Davis has done and the improvement he expects to see going forward.
“He is a traffic cop back there, if you will,” Tomlin said during his Tuesday presser. “He occupied the role Mike Mitchell occupied before him, that Ryan Clark occupied before Mike Mitchell. It is a hub of communication. It’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that role. He’s delivering similar, tangible production in terms of numbers and tackling, But this guy has made a dramatic step in terms of what he brings to us. Because he keeps a lid on it back there, he communicates, hes a hub of communication. He’s done a heck of a job of it.”
Not giving up big plays has been one of this pass defense’s biggest improvements from 2017, where they started the year off strong but crumbled down the stretch.
Last year, they gave up 13 passes of 40+ yards, third most in the NFL. This year, that number currently sits at four, tied for the fifth fewest in the league. And since the Steelers six-game win streak began in Week 5, they’ve allowed just one, the third fewest by any defense. Davis isn’t the sole reason for that. But he is a big one.
Communication as a whole has improved since the team’s sluggish start, when it felt like the Steelers couldn’t even get lined up properly, let alone defend anything after the snap. That’s a huge reason why the big plays have been eliminated.
Tomlin challenged, and expected, Davis to keep improving as the year goes on.
“He is evolving. Like we’re talking about our team, he’s done well but he’s going to do better and he’s continually displayed that. We expect that. Because he has been in the lineup with some of the responsibilities and things we ask him to do are new to him.”
Davis’ availability has been an underrated asset in that development. He’s played more snaps defensively than any other Steeler, one of the few players in this secondary not to miss any time due to injury or poor play.
If there is one tangible area of improvement, it’s splash plays. He doesn’t have an interception this year and as a whole, Pittsburgh’s safeties have just one in 2018.