By Mike Bires
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Rookie of the Year in 2008 was a linebacker, but it wasn’t Bruce Davis.
No, the third-round draft pick out of UCLA wasn’t a factor in the thrill-a-minute Super Bowl season.
A two-time All-American defensive end in college according to various publications, Davis didn’t even dress for the 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals in SB XLIII.
Davis didn’t dress for any playoff game. In fact, he only played sparingly in five games during the regular season.
He didn’t even have any thing to show for himself in the final 2008 statistics.
“It was a learning experience,” said Davis, who’s 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds. “Everyone wishes they can come in and play right away, but that just wasn’t realistic here.
“I got down on myself last year a little bit, but looking back it, it was probably the best thing for me … to sit back and watch the best four linebackers in the game.”
Obviously, Davis had a tough time making the transition from D-end to college to outside linebacker as a pro. The change was so difficult that Davis could rarely
get on the field even for special teams.
So in a year in which none of the drafted rookies make an impact, undrafted free agent Patrick Bailey was named the Steelers’ Rookie of the Year. Bailey, who played at Duke, excelled on special teams and got to play in 12 regular-season games as well as all the playoff games.
Davis, who turns 24 on Sept. 2, hopes special teams will be his ticket for more playing time this year.
After all, he’s the backup to right outside linebacker James Harrison, the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Harrison rarely leaves the field.
“I just want to go out there and make an impact any way I can,” said Davis, who switched his jersey number to 50 after wearing No. 53 last year. “On special teams, I’m really looking forward to going out there and making splash plays. I just want to help the team any way I can.”
So far in the organized team activities the Steelers have had as well as the three-day minicamp in early May, Davis is beaming with confidence.
That self-belief comes from the fact he’s now a second-year pro. He’s been through the process once before. He understands the defense. He’s no longer awestruck and confused by the pro game.
“I learned a lot about being a professional, about how to carry myself on and off the field,” said Davis, whose father has two Super Bowl rings during his playing days as a tackle for the Oakland Raiders.
“I’ve learned the defense. We have some of the best teachers in the league including the best teacher in the league in (defensive coordinator) Dick LeBeau.
Last year, Coach (Mike) Tomlin wasn’t going to let up on me. He put a lot of pressure on me, which was a great thing. He was always on me about every little thing, like making sure I was on time for meetings and making sure I knew my playbook.”
“I know James is locked in, and God forbid anything happens to him. But all I’m saying is that I’ll be ready to go this year.”