PITTSBURGH — Sean Davis made his first appearance at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Tuesday, during the Steelers’ OTA No. 7.
He’s been one of the few starters that haven’t been regular attendees this spring, as the Steelers are attempting to move on from a 9-6-1 season that saw the miss the postseason for the first time since 2013.
But Davis is also one of the few Steelers starters that is entering the final year of his contract, something that he discussed at length after practice. Sort of. Davis was more than willing to discuss the subject, but didn’t have much in the way of answers when it comes to whether or not he expects to have a contract extension before this fall.
“I’m not too much involved in that stuff,” Davis admitted.
He added, that to his knowledge, the Steelers have not reached out to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. He also doesn’t seem particularly concerned about whether or not that happens.
“I don’t know. I’m not to worried about it yet. I don’t really care, man. I love being here. I love to play here. But I’m just worried about getting more picks and winning games.”
Of course, it’s probably not a big concern for him, either way, because it seems like a pretty good time to be a free agent at the safety position in the NFL.
Landon Collins just signed a six-year, $84 million contract with the Washington Redskins. Tyrann Mathieu inked a three-year, $42 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. Earl Thomas got $55 million over four years to sing with the Baltimore Ravens.
“I think the safety market went up this year,” Davis said. “That just puts a little more pressure on me to get the job done.”
Of course, Davis hasn’t always been a safety. He was drafted out of Maryland in 2016 as a cornerback. He made six starts, but mostly as a nickel back before making the shift to strong safety for 2017 and then free safety in 2018.
That makes this practice time important to him, even though he missed the first two weeks of OTAs.
“Last year, I don’t want to say I was winging it, but I was just learning by mistakes,” Davis said. “Just to have another year under my belt and have tape to watch. … I feel like this year, I can put it all together.”
Davis spent an extended amount of time after practice talking with starting strong safety Terrell Edmunds. After missing the first portion of practice, he wanted to make sure he was on the same page with his defensive backfield mate.
“It’s been a while since we played together,” Davis said. “It was Week 16 since I’ve been out there with him. Just chopping it up, talking about the year, talking about practice today and just trying to get better.”
Davis had just one interception last season on a defense that struggled to turn the ball over as a whole. Getting better will have to be part of the storyline if he’s going to able to cash in on those big-time deals for free agent safeties, here or elsewhere.
JuJu Surprises Family With New House
Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is continuing the gifting trend, as the latest Pittsburgh player to give their family a life-changing surprise.
Smith-Schuster shared a video to his YouTube channel Monday night, chronicling the lead up and eventual reveal that he had purchased his family a new house.
This is one of the biggest accomplishments of my life and a dream come true! I’ve wanted to do this for so long, finally being able to do this is just unbelievable to me. Check out the video! ➡️ https://t.co/7sNIZ1J5S0 pic.twitter.com/qysVCWgUhn— JuJu Smith-Schuster (@TeamJuJu) July 6, 2020
“Now that I’m able to live my dream and play in the NFL, I think it’s everyone’s dream to take care of their family at some point in their life, especially when it’s their parents,” he said. “For me, myself, I’m buying my mom and dad a house. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid.”
The 23-year-old has been vocal in the past about the adversity he faced growing up one of 23 children in Southern California, including not sleeping in a bed of his own until he arrived at USC. Smith-Schuster’s experiences as a kid were some of the main motivating factors behind his selfless act.
In the vlog, Smith-Schuster documents his trip home to California for the ultimate reveal. While his parents were privy to the whole setup, his siblings were unaware, believing they were visiting Smith-Schuster’s Airbnb for a day at the pool. He originally told his mother over FaceTime months earlier, also included in the video.
Instead of a pool party, his siblings were surprised with their new six-bedroom, five-home in Yorba Linda, California. Upon learning the incredible news, they raced around the house picking rooms and brainstorming design ideas.
Smith-Schuster’s big announcement comes just a day after teammate James Conner surprised his mother with a new house, sharing her reaction on social media as well.
Entering the final year of his rookie deal with the Steelers, the fully-healthy Smith-Schuster is looking to have a big season in 2020.
Film Study: Banner or Okorafor, Who Wins Steelers’ Right Tackle Spot?
The Steelers have announced their intentions to move 2019 starting right tackle Matt Feiler to left guard after the retirement of Ramon Foster.
With that occurring, it sets Zach Banner and Chukwuma Okorafor on a collision course for a training camp battle at right tackle. Okorafor did get the nod against the Los Angeles Rams last season. However, Banner was the team’s sixth offensive lineman and came in on numerous plays. That spawned the “No. 72 is eligible” movement in Pittsburgh.
Behind all of this, however, which of the young tackles is the guy who should take the field against the New York Giants in Week 1?
The Tale of the Tape
In terms of actual on the field reps, Banner was good last season. That is not an exaggeration. Banner immediately sticks out as a guy that could potentially start. He got limited pass protection reps, and during those 24 limited reps did not allow a single pressure, sack, hurry, or quarterback hit. However, in run blocking, Banner showcased his ‘Hulk strength’ by blowing guys off their spot and out of the gap consistently.
When the label of a ‘people mover’ is given to an offensive lineman, this is what they mean. Banner may just be the strongest guy on the offensive line because he gets this type of unusual movement at the NFL level. For a big 6-foot-8 guy, Banner plays extremely low here. He showcases good knee bend and comes through with a nice flatback to keep his pads low. More importantly, he uses that knee bend to engage his lower body and shoot that power through his hands as he hits the edge defender in the middle of his pads. The best thing about this rep, however, is that he simply does not quit. Banner stays engaged until the whistle is blown and ends up moving the defender a whole ten yards downfield.
That functional strength will always be Banner’s best trait. It is natural for a guy of his size to be this strong, but guys his size often do not play with the consistent pad level and grip strength that Banner plays with. The one thing to highlight in this play is Banner’s feet as well. They are light and do not stop moving. Banner is not a heavy-footed guy for his size, which bodes well for his pass sets when quick feet will be all that more important. Banner as a pure finisher and run blocking technician, however, is a fun thing to watch on film.
Keeping those feet running and staying engaged is so important in the open field for an offensive lineman. Banner has excellent movement skills, superb feet, and always has the grip strength needed as well. When a lineman can stay engaged like this on a linebacker downfield, that is how they spring big plays in the running game and screen game. That is why seeing reps like these from a guy like is Banner is so exciting. NFL starting tackles do things like this.
For Okorafor, he has far more limited reps than Banner. However, during his start against the Rams, he flashed some good tape out there. For one, his vision and ability to multitask along the offensive line is excellent, as he showcases here. Okorafor attacks and collapses the hip of the rusher heading for DeCastro, but is still quick-witted enough to bounce back, stun the edge rusher, and keep Rudolph protected. That is all eye discipline at that point. It shows Okorafor can process looks and where the pressure may be coming from on any given play.
Unlike Banner, who wins through pure functional strength, Okorafor wins moreso through his punch power. In pass protection especially, Okorafor has well-timed, strong punches that stun pass rushers that can try to win around the bend. Against speed rushers especially, it is how Okorafor wins. Dante Fowler can speak to that, as he is stunned by a robust two-handed jab from Okorafor on this play.
Where Okorafor sets himself apart from Banner is that he has superb footwork. Banner has good footwork, but they are not nearly as quick as Okorafor’s feet. Here, he can get into his smooth kick-slide and virtually glide to his spot. That means he is not often rushing to beat guys, even with a significant first step to his spot. As such, he can stay disciplined and within strike pocket. There is no need for him to be overaggressive and lunge. Instead, he simply maintains good knee bend and strikes to stun the pass rusher with his heavy hands.
So, Who Wins the Job?
This one is a bit tough to answer. The higher pedigree within the organization by far goes to Okorafor. He was groomed to be the successor at one of the tackle spots ever since he was picked in the 3rd round out of Western Michigan. However, Banner put out quality tape in 2019, and it is hard to see him going on the bench.
Okorafor certainty struggled in the preseason, but he was not that bad against the Rams. He had some help with chips and such, but when asked to face a man head-to-head simply, most of the time, Okorafor did his job. Still, though, Banner’s quality tape and performance have to stand for something. He has reworked his body once this offseason and looks ready to go once again.
At this time, the prediction is Banner just because of the amount of quality tape he put out. In reality, this is up in the air, and it would not be a surprise at all to see Okorafor capture that spot, but just based off the sheer quality of tape, Banner gets the nod.
James Conner Surprises Mom with New House
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner warmed hearts last month when he surprised his father with a new truck.
Now, he is taking care of mom.
Conner recently surprised his mother with a brand new house, sharing her emotional reaction to Twitter on Saturday.
Welcome HOME Ma! You’ve sacrificed so much and we can’t thank you enough! You’re the reason I go to work day in and day out, to finally give you a place you can call Home. I Love you❤️🏡💪🏽💯🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/c25KyOphAo— James Conner (@JamesConner_) July 4, 2020
Conner was able to pull off the surprise for his mother, Kelly Bibbs, with the help of his brothers. While Bibbs may have not realized what exactly was going on at first, seeing her son James and the golden balloons arranged to say “Welcome Home” quickly gave it away.
Steelers running backs coach Eddie Faulkner and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry shared their thoughts on the big surprise, among other on social media.
Wow! The best thing I’ve seen in a long time! https://t.co/BO3x1RkvDL— Eddie Faulkner (@coachfaulk) July 4, 2020
❤️ Absolutely, man that’s a amazing feeling… Making sure your people Straight forever ✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾— Jarvis Juice Landry (@God_Son80) July 5, 2020
Conner’s gesture is a continuation of an offseason of giving that saw him gift his father a brand new truck back on June 6.
Bought my pops a truck! He was hype 😂🙏🏽💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/QSrH2bdiTS— James Conner (@JamesConner_) June 6, 2020
Entering his fourth season out of Pitt, Conner is looking for a bounce back season following an injury plagued 2019 campaign. He rushed for 464 yards and four touchdowns, but played in only ten games for the Steelers.
Last season was a far cry from 2018, when Conner was a breakout sensation replacing Le’Veon Bell. He ran for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning Pro Bowl honors.
Entering the final year of his rookie contract, the 25-year-old has something to prove in 2020.