Pittsburgh Steelers second-round draft pick Sean Davis probably wasn’t expected to see as much time on the field as he did in the 30-17 loss to the Detroit Lions, but getting as much on-the-job training as he can will only help him improve going forward.
Davis started the contest as the Steelers’ slot cornerback. He inherited the job when Senquez Golson was removed from the secondary once again due to injury. First-round cornerback Artie Burns was also sidelined on Friday night. This left Davis as the lone representative of the rookie class of defensive backs.
His first test of the evening, a matchup against veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin, didn’t go exactly as the rookie hoped it would. Biting on a fake route, Davis recovered in time to make a tackle, but his attempt was in vain. Boldin was eventually stopped by safety Mike Mitchell, but not before a thirty yard gain set the Lions up with decent field position.
Rookie jitters are to be expected in an athlete’s first professional game. Even more so if that rookie is to be a starter during the regular season. As time progressed, it could be seen that Davis became more acclimated to the defense. Placed all over the field, Davis was near the ball carrier on virtually every play. There was no sign of significant injury to his left knee that reportedly sidelined him earlier in the week.
Davis recorded five tackles in the three quarters in appeared in. Above anything, he displayed good sense of the ball carrier and tackling ability. He was called on a questionable horse-collar penalty that cost the defense 15 yards when he brought down running back Zach Zenner.
In the same drive, deep in Steelers’ territory, the Lions were within scoring range. Looking to atone for his earlier mistakes, Davis escaped a block and found receiver Jeremy Kerley, blowing up the play up before it could develop. It was reminiscent to the type of plays that made him a great defender at the University of Maryland.
Later in the second half of the contest, Davis was positioned at safety. Back in his natural position, he looked more comfortable and confident. He was patient and didn’t make any costly mistakes. On one second down play, he waited for the quarterback throw his pass before taking himself up the field or attempting to make a play that wasn’t there.
While Davis did not record an interception or sack, he adjusted well to the speed of the game. His versatility in the secondary makes him invaluable to the Steelers’ secondary. With Golson likely done for the year, he will need all the reps he can get before the start of the season.
As Burns continues to nurse a thigh injury, Davis will benefit from his absence. With the Steelers’ situation in the secondary, developing Davis into a talented slot corner is paramount. At this point, he is more important to the defense than the Steelers’ first-round pick is.
While many will find Davis’ performance disappointing, his ceiling is very high going forward. In the next three preseason games that follow, Davis will continue to progress and become an important part of the defense.
Davis will match up against the Philadelphia Eagles receiver corps in week two of the preseason on August 18th. He will have the opportunity to defend Jordan Matthews, who is considered among the top slot receivers in the NFL. This will further his progression as a defender if he is able to succeed against him.
Sean Davis performed as well as any rookie could have been expected to in his first professional experience. While he left much to be desired on the field, the young defensive back will continue to develop into a threat to wide receivers and anyone else who attempts to halt his path of becoming a star on the Steelers’ defense.