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Steelers need to bring back Sean Davis to compete at safety

Think about the four years Sean Davis spent with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The day after he was drafted, Mike Tomlin was quoted as saying “Sean can play many roles on our defense”.  Tomlin was referring to the fact that Davis played both corner and safety at the University of Maryland.  True to his word, Tomlin and Keith Butler moved there new defensive back all over the secondary.  From free safety/slot corner, to strong safety, and then back to free safety again Davis played everywhere.  All in an effort to finally solve the Steelers safety position once and for all.

As you might imagine, this didn’t do well for a young player trying too find his footing in the NFL.  Sean Davis paid the price for how bad the Steelers secondary was when he got there.  There is a silver lining here however.  In 2017 Davis played all sixteen games at strong safety.  All he did that season was post 92 tackles, 3 interceptions, a sack, and a forced fumble.

The Edmunds effect:

You would think after a performance like that, half the Steelers safety position would be set.  You’d be wrong.  In 2018 the team added yet another square peg into the safety situation.  They drafted the super athletic, but highly raw Terrell Edmunds.  Tomlin and company quickly learned that there was no way they could use Edmunds as a free safety, so it was Davis on the move again.

With the 2018 complete, the Steelers knew they had a problem.  The team had two players better suited to play strong safety, and zero free safeties on the roster.  It was killing the defense on the back end creating several big plays given up.  Kevin Colbert was desperate to finally solve this safety issue when Minkah Fitzpatrick became available.  Knowing this he did something he had never done before, trade a first round pick a away.

The Minkah effect:

The results were stunning.  After juggling bodies around for years trying to set the safety position for the first time since the Polamalu/Clark days, they finally had done it.  The defense improved so dramatically with Minkah Fitzpatrick, the team nearly made the playoffs without Ben Roethlisberger for most of the season.  Unfortunately for Sean Davis, he too missed nearly the entire 2019 season due to injury.

This brings us to the upcoming 2020 season and who should play opposite Fitzpatrick on the Steelers defense.  The easy answer is Terrell Edmunds.  He is under contract, and presumably will improve with more experience.  The truth is he did very little to stand out in 2019, and in fact was seen as the weak link of the defense.  Wouldn’t a healthy Sean Davis be a far better option?  Let’s take a look at each player’s only full season at strong safety.

By the numbers:

2017 Sean Davis – 92 tackles, 3 interceptions, 1 sack, 8 passes defended

2019 Terrell Edmunds – 105 tackles, 0 interceptions, 0 sacks, 3 passes defended

 

The Davis effect:

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense was very good in 2019, but could it be even better?  Why not at least find out by bringing Sean Davis back and letting him compete for the starting strong safety spot.  The cost would seem to be the only thing standing in the way.  The Steelers are up against the salary cap, and have to find a way to squeeze in the very expensive resigning of Bud Dupree (Steelers Need to Bring Back Bud Dupree )  

It’s a bit of a mystery what Davis might get in the free agent market.  He is a former second round pick with excellent athletic traits.  His lack of production over the years does work against him however.  Davis may be inclined to sign a one year “prove it” deal on the cheap to up his value for 2021.

That is something Kevin Colbert and company could work with.  A one year, 2-3 million dollar deal is just the kind of deal the Steelers would be looking for.  Minkah Fitzpatrick and Sean Davis could be a spectacular duo at Steelers safety for years to come.  Pittsburgh’s brass owe it to themselves to at least give it one more year to find out.

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