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Are the Pittsburgh Steelers ready for another hybrid DB from Maryland?

The Steelers have a need for Sean Davis in their defensive backfield.

Chad Scott was the last cornerback the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted in the first round. He came out of Maryland in 1997 with experience at safety as well.

Anyone ready for another corner-safety out of Maryland?

Not that Sean Davis will be drafted in the first round.

Nor will Davis play cornerback. He played enough of that last season after the 6-1, 201-pounder moved outside late in his junior season to help his team because of injuries.

No, Davis is a safety. And proud of it.

"But I'm versatile," he said while selling his wares at the NFL Combine. "I have the quickness and speed to play corner and the size and strength to play safety."

Davis can run, as his 4.46 Combine 40 attests. But can he provide a tackling presence in the middle of the field as a safety?

"Oh, yeah," he said with a wicked smile. "Coming downhill? Yeah. Yeah. That's what I do."

Davis was the proverbial tackling machine at Maryland. In his three seasons as a starter he made 306 tackles (including an astounding 213 solos). Last year as a cornerback Davis forced five fumbles to go along with his three interceptions.

"I think it's just the will to hit," he said. "I like imposing my will on people. I'm not the biggest guy but I feel I am one of the strongest guys out there."

For those who trust analytics, Davis is a dream come true. He bettered all of Gil Brandt's target numbers at safety, except the 60-yard shuttle. Brandt, through
historical research of Combine numbers, wants an 11.2 in the long shuttle and Davis ran an 11.53.

The only other safety in this draft crop to come close to bettering eight of Brandt's nine target numbers is Justin Simmons, who bettered six of nine. Jalen Mills and Keanu Neal deserve mention for missing four and five targets, respectively, but with times and measures which all came close.

However, it's Davis who stands as the supreme athlete at the position with the following numbers: 4.46 40, 2.60 20, 1.56 10, 21 reps, 37.5 vertical, 10-6 broad jump, 3.97 short shuttle and 6.64 three-cone.

The Steelers apparently pay attention to such numbers at that position. Mike Mitchell was a surprising second-round pick out of Ohio in 2009 with pro-day numbers that bettered all but the short shuttle. (He wasn't timed in the long shuttle.) The Steelers, of course, signed Mitchell as a free agent in 2014 and have since used him as their starting free safety.

The Steelers hoped Mitchell would work in tandem with another athletic freak for whom they had traded a third-round pick to move up and draft in 2013. Shamarko Thomas, like Mitchell before him, had bettered all of Brandt's target numbers except for the short shuttle. (He never ran the long shuttle, either.) Yet, Thomas has been a disappointment to this point because of his alleged lack of understanding of the defense. Thus, the need at strong safety remains.

How is Davis' intelligence?

"I know three languages," he said proudly.

In addition to English, Davis studied "French in middle school and Chinese in high school."

So, that makes you smart?

"Exactly," he said with a smile.

"Relationships are definitely important," Davis added. "Not only do you need other DBs but the linebackers because they're involved in the pass game as well. Having each others' backs is keen. Sometimes when I was playing safety with (Anthony) Nixon, we wouldn't even talk. We'd have hand signals, things that we made up while watching film, things we made up on the fly. Communication in all aspects of the game needs to be straight."

Scouts say Davis' weakness as a defensive back has been his man coverage skills, but he looked smooth during Combine field drills and believes that flaw has been coached up well enough during practices against Stefon Diggs, who enjoyed an outstanding rookie season last year in Minnesota.

Davis agrees with scouts that his strengths are "playing center field" and of course coming downhill to make tackles.

"I just love hitting," he said. "I watched Sean Taylor my whole life. I mimic my play after him."

Taylor, of course, is the late great who seems to have inspired just about all of the young safeties coming out in recent drafts.

"I watched him ever since he was at Miami," Davis said. "I always wanted to go to the U back when they had the colored visors and all that stuff. I just loved how he imposed his will on people. He made people scared to come across the middle of the field. And then when he went to the Redskins. I'm from Maryland and I'm a Redskins fan. He wore No. 21 and his name was Sean so I was like, 'This dude is perfect.' I idolized him. I loved everything about him. Real quiet dude just like me."

Davis recalled Taylor's hit on a punter in a Pro Bowl "when he picked him up and dropped him on his head."

Davis, No. 21 from Maryland, can be seen at the opening of the Senior Bowl tape making a similar hit on Nick Vannett.

"The first play of the game, against that tight end in the flat," Davis said. "I picked him up and slammed him on his head, too. Yeah, I liked that one."


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