PITTSBURGH (AP) – The youth movement in the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary is nearly complete.
Pittsburgh grabbed defensive back Sean Davis out of Maryland in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday night, won over by Davis’ size and ability to go find the ball. The selection came less than 24 hours after the Steelers took Miami cornerback Artie Burns with the 25th overall pick. It’s the first time Pittsburgh selected defensive backs in the first two rounds in nearly 30 years.
“It’s coming together, it feels good,” said secondary coach Carnell Lake.
And necessary after Pittsburgh finished 30th in the league in yards passing allowed last season, the obvious weak link on a team that went 11-7 and took eventual Super Bowl champion Denver deep into the fourth quarter in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
The 6-foot-1, 201-pound Davis proved both durable and versatile for the Terrapins, moving between safety and cornerback while playing in 50 games across four seasons. He finished his college career with more than 300 tackles, impressing Lake with his instincts and physicality.
“He provides good cover skills and can make good plays at the ball,” Lake aid. “That’s one area of concern that we had to address.”
Davis will have a chance to compete for playing time as strong safety in Pittsburgh, which is looking for help alongside free safety Mike Mitchell. The Steelers re-signed special teams ace Mike Mitchell in March and Shamarko Thomas – once envisioned as the heir apparent to the now retired Troy Polamalu – remains in the fold but Davis is bigger and faster than both players. Davis ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the combine, bench pressed 225 pounds 21 times and has a 37-inch vertical leap.
Lake called Davis “an exceptional athlete.” The Steelers believe he’s a smart one too. Davis speaks three languages – English, Chinese and French – and even laughingly translated “who’s got Gronkowski” in Chinese when prodded by reporters shortly after being selected.
“We’re not worried about his ability to adapt to our playbook,” Lake said.
With their third-round pick (89th overall), the Steelers selected defensive tackle Javon Hargrave from South Carolina State.