There is no getting around the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ second-year players are going to be crucial to their success, not just in 2021, but into the future. Already, at least three project into the starting lineup, and several others could still play a prominent role.
One of those late-round picks who could be an underrated asset this season is Carlos Davis, the seventh-round defensive tackle out of Nebraska. Even though he had no spring workouts or preseason, he showed the coaches his skills and passion. That was enough to make the roster, and then to ascend the depth chart, and now he’s focused on building on that into year two.
“When I think, I play slow. So really just fine-tuning the playbook and being in the best shape I can be. Plus, pass rush and run blocking, just learning blocks”, Davis told Teresa Varley last month about where his focus is this offseason. “I am going to do that with my college coach this offseason. We run the same blocks where I went to school as in the pros. I am going to learn more blocks and how to play them”.
While he was a healthy scratch for much of his rookie season, he would eventually pass Isaiah Buggs on the depth chart as the team’s primary reserve defensive tackle. He only mounted 54 snaps on defense, an obviously small sample size, but he registered six tackles, including one for loss.
And he showed his coaches plenty during practice, which is how he worked his way up the depth chart in the first place. It’s only unfortunate that he was injured the same time as Tyson Alualu, so he missed out on his best opportunity last season to log quality snaps. But his focus is on this season.
“Like Coach Tomlin told me before I left at the end of last season, we expect you to be better than you were last year. That is what I took as far as the experience”, he said of his exit meeting process. “I have one year under my belt. I am going to use that. Stuff I didn’t do well last year, I know what to work on to please my coaches and everyone around me. I know what to do better. I feel like the experience is going to make me better”.
While it wouldn’t be accurate to say he had training wheels on last year—he had to beat out Daniel McCullers just to make the 53-man roster, and there were few games were, due to injury, they would have had to dress him—it’s equally accurate to say that the standards are that much higher for him in 2021.
With a good year or two, Davis can position himself as the Steelers’ starting nose tackle of the future. Alualu is very near the end of his career. Davis could be his wingman and backup until the time comes for him to call it a day.