Fourth-year veteran safety Sean Davis has spent much of training camp as an observer from the sidelines since his finger, in his own words, “exploded” upon impact while attempting to make a tackle. In his absence, others like Kameron Kelly have stepped up, and he has gotten the opportunity to watch the secondary grow and build from that outside perspective.
After recently returning to practice on a limited basis as he continues to heal from that open-wound injury, Davis spoke to reporters via The Fan earlier this week to cover a variety of topics, one of which was his opinion of the overall state of the secondary, which has been recalibrated a bit this offseason.
I like it all, actually. The group is definitely on the rise. Our corner play has been looking tremendous. Going from Joe, to Steve, to Artie, to Cam Sutton, just to name the guys off the top of my head, the man coverage has been looking pretty good to me. Safety-wise, Terrell has grown, he’s taken a big step after his first year. And the guys filling in, Danger, Kam Kelly, some of the other younger guys, they’re starting to make some plays, too. Communication is key. You’re talking to see some of those guys take on that communication role. The safety has to set the defense up, to see those guys taking that step forward, it feels good.
The biggest move that the Pittsburgh Steelers made in the name of improving the secondary was in committing $25.5 million over the next three years to former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Steven Nelson, who will slide in across from Joe Haden as the team’s outside cornerbacks.
A strong training camp from Artie Burns, a former starter, and third-year Cameron Sutton, really bolster the potential depth behind the starters. Sutton also provides depth along the inside behind Mike Hilton, running as the number two slot defender, but Kelly and Dravon Askew-Henry have also worked there.
Second-year safety Terrell Edmunds should be the other major change this season, along with Nelson. The 2018 first-round pick is looking prepared to take a major step forward after getting his feet wet as a rookie, and has hit the ground running.
There appear to be potentially a dozen or more defensive backs on this 90-man roster who have rosterable potential as we head into this first preseason game later tonight. But it is the preseason process that works to separate the training camp stars from the potential football players.
So it’s a big night for Kelly. It’s a big night for Askew-Henry, for P.J. Locke, for Marcelis Branch. Even for some more veteran players such as Marcus Allen, Brian Allen, and Jordan Dangerfield. Nothing will be handed out this year in the defensive backfield. It’s time to earn your spot in this deeper secondary.