Sean Davis came into this season, along with Artie Burns, as the only two defensive backs on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster who had spent more than one season on their 53-man lineup. The pair of 2016 draft picks, taken in the first two rounds, were suddenly the ‘veteran’ nucleus of a generally young secondary.
After Burns was benched early in the year, it pretty much became Davis’ show, though obviously nine-year veteran Joe Haden, who has now been with the team for a little over 15 months, plays a big role in the group dynamic as well.
The second-round pick out of Maryland has been a full-time starter since about midway through his rookie season, though he is now starting at free safety rather than strong safety—and even played in the nickel role earlier in his career. He has the most starts for Pittsburgh of any defensive back on the roster.
Which is what makes these losses, and these performances from the secondary, even more difficult. After Sunday’s loss to the Oakland Raiders, he made it clear that the entire group’s performance is a direct reflection on himself. “As a leader of the DBs, I’m going to take this personal”, he said according to the team’s communications department. “I have to make sure my unit is playing well. The NFL is hard, man. You can’t just show up on Sunday to make a play”.
The rest of his starting unit consists of Haden, whose first start in Pittsburgh was the 2017 season opener; Mike Hilton, a second-year player; Coty Sensabaugh, a veteran in his second year with Pittsburgh; and Terrell Edmunds, a rookie. Davis has more longevity and experience playing this defense than any of them.
“I believe in trusting the process, I believe in the grind, and I believe that practice makes perfect”, he told reporters. “You play how you practice and I feel like we need to take a step back as DBs, go through the film and really just be hard on ourselves and want to push ourselves to want the pressure to be on us to make the plays to close the game out”.
That is precisely what the Steelers failed to do, allowing the Raiders to score the game-winning touchdown with under 30 seconds to play on fourth and goal. They had other opportunities to make a stop earlier in the drive as well, but it came all the way down to the wire for the ultimate failure.
“We can’t dwell on these. We have to continue to move forward, continue to get better, learn from our mistakes, and put together a winning performance, which we haven’t done in three weeks”, Davis concluded. “I’m taking it personal. You can tell the whole locker room is sick. We’re just going to take it personal. Continue to work. Keep our heads up. We have three more guaranteed”.