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Sean Davis embracing the palpable intensity that's enveloped the Steelers

Slot corner could become Steelers' first rookie DB to start opener in 19 years, and he would do it in his hometown

PITTSBURGH -- Sean Davis had to fill about 30 ticket requests for family members and friends who'll travel across town to the Washington Redskins' FedExField to watch his homecoming with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Davis was born and raised in Washington D.C. and went to college at nearby College Park at the University of Maryland.

But will every one of the 30 locals dress in black and gold?

"Oh, yeah," said Davis. "I'm positive. Positive."

Of course, we remember Davis on draft day saying how much his father had always loved the Steelers. "He might be happier than I am," Davis said of being chosen in the second round.

Davis had instead been a Redskins fan, a Sean Taylor fan in particular. But on Monday night, he'll be more Chad Scott. And that's a good thing because Scott -- also out of Maryland and also a hybrid safety/cornerback in college -- was the last rookie defensive back to start an opener for the Steelers.

Not that Scott, or really the Steelers secondary in general, got off to a great start. Troy Aikman picked them apart with four touchdown passes in a 37-7 Dallas Cowboys win.

But Scott and the Steelers recovered the following week and didn't give up a touchdown pass in beating the Redskins, 14-13.

The Steelers went on to play in the AFC Championship Game that season and Scott finished it on the Associated Press All-Rookie team. He was named the Steelers Rookie of the Year.

Nineteen years later, Davis could very well start as the Steelers' nickel back and set up a similarly successful season.

Does he feel the pressure of attempting something that hasn't been done in so long?

"A little bit," Davis said. "But I'm trying to keep my mental game strong and not worry about it and just treat each day like it's just another practice."

But it's obvious that practice this week isn't like every other practice he's been through with the Steelers. The first thing that hit the players as they walked out the back door of the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Wednesday was the heat and humidity; the second was the intensity of teammates and coaches.

Davis, for instance, was corrected, scolded, praised and challenged Wednesday like he hadn't been since joining the team. Even in the locker room after practice Davis was given tips by Sammie Coates about a particular route and Ryan Shazier was in his ear about some communications issues. That went on for several minutes before Davis could grant a quick interview.

"Yeah, you can feel it, man," Davis said. "I felt it walking into the team meeting this morning. Coach T started it off by firing us up. It's a big week, a big game, and he's letting us know it."

Davis is a natural safety who would start as the slot cornerback if the Redskins open up in a passing set. And that's been a bumpy ride for him. Davis' first preseason game, with veterans Anquan Boldin and Jeremy Kerley in the slot for the Detroit Lions, was rough. Tomlin warned reporters, though, that Davis would improve with time, and he has.

"The more work I get, the better I'm doing and the more confident and comfortable I'm getting," Davis said. "(Learning two positions) was a lot at first but I've settled down, adjusted to the speed of the game, learned the playbook pretty much -- not in and out, but I have a very good knowledge and understanding of it, which is helping me speed up."

Davis said the fact he's going home for his debut hasn't added any pressure, just added to the excitement.

"It means a little bit more to me but I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself or overhype it," he said. "But, man, going home is going to be awesome, my debut, playing in my hometown, my state, in front of a bunch of family and friends, that's going to be awesome. I am putting a lot of studying and extra time into it. This is my first game and especially for this one I want to do a great job."

NOTES -- David DeCastro said he's close to signing a contract extension with the Steelers. The team-imposed deadline to reach a deal is kickoff on Monday. A six-year, $66 million deal would not only fit the going rate for top guards, but would be a fitting tribute to No. 66. ... DE Cam Heyward (ankle) and RT Marcus Gilbert (elbow) both practiced and expect to play Monday. ... WR Markus Wheaton (shoulder) didn't practice Wednesday but expects to play Monday. ... The Steelers signed RB David Cobb to their practice squad and released RB Cameron Stingily. Cobb (5-11, 229) was a fifth-round pick by the Tennessee Titans in 2015 out of Minnesota. He was injured most of his rookie season but returned to rush for 146 yards (2.8 avg.). 


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