Putting together a team is by no means solely nor primarily about what you are able to add to the group year in and year out. More than anything, it’s about the pieces that you are able to keep together for a period of years, acquiring talent and giving them the structure to develop together into a cohesive unit.
By and large, the Pittsburgh Steelers do this better than most, and they return among the most snaps from the 2019 season as they head into this year, but they have still lost some significant players from a year ago, some of whom have been with the team for a while, like Ramon Foster, Javon Hargrave, Mark Barron, Anthony Chickillo, and others.
Now that we’ve introduced you to all of the new faces that the Steelers have added to the team since the end of last season, it’s time to take stock of who is gone since then, and what their departure—whether by the team’s will or not—will impact their success or failure in 2020 and beyond.
Player: S Sean Davis
Years Played: 4 (4 in Pittsburgh)
Snaps Played: 55 (2722 career)
Even though he didn’t get much of an opportunity to play during the 2019 season, as you can see by his career snap count, Sean Davis was a significant player throughout his first three seasons in the NFL since the Steelers selected him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Starting out as the team’s nickel defender as a rookie, he eventually transitioned to the starting strong safety at around the middle of the season. He played 948 snaps as a second-year player in 2017, recording three interceptions and a forced fumble along with 92 tackles and seven tackles for loss, plus a sack and eight passes defensed.
With Mike Mitchell being let go, the Steelers moved him again, this time to free safety, so he spent most of his first three seasons adjusting to new roles. Playing further away from the ball, he had less of a direct impact, but he showed the potential to develop into a solid starting free safety.
The 2019 offseason was a plague of injuries for him, however, and he even missed the season opener, first-year former college free agent Kameron Kelly starting in his place. He returned to the lineup for game two, but Davis suffered a torn labrum making a tackle attempt late in the contest.
He was quickly placed on the Reserve/Injured List, and then the Steelers traded for Minkah Fitzpatrick, who was an instant starter and produced a first-team All-Pro season. Though he still said that he would like to stay in Pittsburgh, they didn’t seem to offer him any contract.
He ended up returning locally, signing with the Washington Football Team, having played his college ball at Maryland, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $4 million, including a $2 million signing bonus and $500,000 in per-game roster bonus—after missing 15 games in 2019, but having missed none in the prior two years.