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Steelers Film Room: Sean Davis’ progression vs. the Cowboys (Part 1)

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Davis has been getting heat for his late-game facemask penalty. We’ll look at his overall performance to see how warm his hot seat should be.

Dallas Cowboys v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Sean Davis needs to sit the bench!” or “The Steelers drafted a guy that stinks at two positions!” or, well, you get the idea. Those were the type of comments I saw after the Steelers last-second loss to the Cowboys. The frustration of the team’s fourth loss in a row had boiled over. Fans and readers needed to vent, and Sean Davis was a natural target for their vitriol.

Normally when I re-watch a game, a topic for the Film Room tends to “reveal itself,” if you will. I admit that this time, however, I went in specifically looking at Sean Davis. I wanted to see for myself if he had played as badly as many thought. I found that overall, Davis acquitted himself well. I also decided that in order to show a good sample of his plays, it would be necessary to divide the article into two parts.

We’ll start with a play early in the game, on the Cowboys second drive. Here, Sean Davis, as the strong safety, has outside contain:

As Davis engages with the WR, he leans inside for just a split second. That is enough, however, to give Elliott the space he needs to take the run outside.

Although this was the second offensive series for the Cowboys, it was the first action of the game for Davis. He rotated series with Robert Golden in the Ravens game, and did the same vs Dallas. Needless to say, this was not a great way to start for Davis.

It would get better. Two plays later on the same Cowboys drive, they sent WR Lucky Whitehead in motion to hold the defenders on a run by Elliott:

Davis is mindful of his contain responsibility. Once he sees that the end-around is not run, he breaks in and makes the tackle.

The next play (following a false start penalty on Dallas), we see similar form from Davis:

It’s subtle, but note how Davis waits until Elliott commits upfield before he breaks toward him. Remember, as the strong safety in these plays, Davis is the force man. He has outside contain. He must not allow the play to get outside of him. Davis lost contain on the first play; he made sure it was not going to happen again.

Some may look at the results of these runs (6 yards, 7 yards) and think that Davis failed. Stopping the run is an 11-man job. Where you get into trouble is when one person tries to do something outside of his assignment. Davis was sound in his assignment. He kept contain. The fact that these runs went for the yardage they did is do to DL and LB’s getting defeated on blocks.

So far there is nothing flashy here. The film is what the film is. What we don’t see is anything that shows Sean Davis failing miserably. I realize it’s only 3 plays. That’s why I am doing a Part 2 to this Film Room. In that, we will see a little splash. I hope you join me in that one as we take a further look at the Steelers young safety.