Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers had been waiting for the team to spend some high round draft picks on the secondary, but not just picks like Senquez Golson, who has yet to play a snap of NFL football in his two years in the league, but players who can do just that -- play.
They got their wish with the team's first two picks in the 2016 NFL Draft. 1st round pick Artie Burns missed the majority of training camp with a quadriceps injury, and second round pick Sean Davis reaped the benefits of Burns being out, and the foot injury to Golson.
In fact, to open the season, Davis was the team's starting slot cornerback, despite him being a natural safety, and played the position until suffering a back injury in the Week 3 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. What was also happening at that time was Burns getting acclimated and comfortable with the team's defense, as well as the speed of the NFL.
As Mike Tomlin always says, "One man's misfortune is another man's opportunity."
After the Week 5 win over the New York Jets, it is Artie Burns who has been spending more time with the starters, and Davis who is seeing his role on the defense decrease and strictly focus on the safety position.
S Sean Davis had been the slot CB in nickel: "'Ducey (William Gay) is playing nickel (slot) and I'm back to playing safety."— Mike Prisuta (@DVEMike) October 13, 2016
The move shouldn't be seen as a demotion for Davis. All reports are he had too much on his plate trying to learn both the safety and slot cornerback positions on the defense as a rookie. Davis very well could still see the field outside of special teams, but it won't be as frequent as it was in the first quarter of the season.
So, with Davis moving back to safety, how will Burns, a natural outside cornerback, fit into the scheme with William Gay and Ross Cockrell? As mentioned in the quote from Davis above, Gay will be moving to the slot, allowing Burns to patrol the outside opposite Cockrell.
CB Artie Burns said he's been promoted: "I'm in the 1st nickel package, increasing my role. More playing time means more time to make plays"— Mike Prisuta (@DVEMike) October 13, 2016
Burns is making plays in practice too. He reportedly has been making more interceptions than mistakes, something which couldn't be said just a month ago. Burns is coming along nicely, and with the likely return of Justin Gilbert to the team's lineup this Sunday, the secondary depth chart can make fans breathe a bit easier.
Although Sean Davis fans might be disappointed to hear he won't be seeing the field as much as he was, fans of the Steelers should be excited about their secondary moving forward. Davis has all the tools to be a legitimate player in the NFL, and Burns is showing just what the Steelers saw in him as a first round draft selection. Also, as stated earlier, Davis is not a natural cornerback. He played the position at Maryland his Senior year, but is more suited to play safety.
Either way you look at it, this move means good things not just for this rookie class, but for the secondary in 2016, and beyond.