Bringing back Sean Davis and claiming Josh Dobbs aren’t home runs. Far from it. The good news is they didn’t need to be. Davis, and to a lesser extent Dobbs, are singles up the middle as complements to the heart of the order. The big bats: Ben Roethlisberger, David DeCastro, an elite defense led by Cam Heyward, TJ Watt, and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Davis is the key one. He struggled as a starter throughout his Steelers’ career. Blame the organization for at least a little of that, moving him around so much early in his career that stunted his growth and development. But he wasn’t a playmaker, missed more tackles than you could accept, and was ultimately done in by season-ending shoulder surgery in 2019.
But as a backup? Davis is a great option. He’s athletic, versatile, knows the team, and they know him. In a year without a preseason, when scouts can’t watch you play, having known players like Davis and Dobbs makes the evaluation a lot easier when bringing those two in. Davis figures to now be the top backup option at free and strong safety with experience and a decent level of competency on special teams.
Prior to camp, the biggest area of weakness on the roster was safety depth. That’s been taken care of by signing Curtis Riley and Davis. Riley’s now on the practice squad following yesterday’s moves but if there’s an injury, he’s certain to be called up to the roster. There’s now NFL experience, Davis and Riley have a combined 60 starts, at a position that was previously filled with special teamers or unknowns like Jordan Dangerfield, Marcus Allen, and rookie Antoine Brooks.
Similar story with Dobbs. Assuming Devlin Hodges lands on the practice squad, bringing Dobbs in makes the QB room a whole lot stronger. Dobbs isn’t a great quarterback, he’s not the #2, and it’s even fair to wonder if he is better than Hodges. Dobbs has struggled with accuracy on short/intermediate routes and his NFL sample size is tiny, 12 career pass attempts. But he’s shown more composure in the pocket than Hodges and gives the team a smart, mobile backup. Overall, the room is better with him in it.
Even moving on from Ryan Switzer and cutting ties with Daniel McCullers, though he’s now on the practice squad, shows the team was willing to evolve. It would’ve been easy to be stagnant with the end of the roster. Defer to veterans given the lack of a preseason. But the team’s willing to take the risk of more unknown players with higher upside in Ray-Ray McCloud and rookie Carlos Davis. Small differences on the roster, McCullers vs Davis wasn’t impacting the Steelers’ Super Bowl odds, but I appreciate the mindset all the same.
Ditto with Dobbs and Davis. No one’s looking back on the season and pointing to them as *the* key difference but they’re practical, low-fanfare decisions that make Pittsburgh a slightly better team.