View Full Version : Davis fits team's linebacker mold

04-28-2008, 08:33 AM
Davis fits team's linebacker mold
Steelers' third pick has solid lineage
Monday, April 28, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

What's with all these sons of former Oakland Raiders pouring into the NFL this weekend? There was Howie Long's kid, Chris, the second overall draft pick. And yesterday, the Steelers took the son of a nemesis with their third-round choice.

Bruce Davis played offensive tackle for the Raiders in the late '70s, then switched to another Steelers rival, the old Central Division enemy Houston Oilers for most of the '80s.

The Steelers drafted his son, Bruce Davis II, to play outside linebacker for them, and he comes with the same kind of blueprint that delivered players to them such as Joey Porter, Clark Haggans and Jason Gildon. None was a high round pick and all were converted college defensive ends who became productive outside linebackers in Pittsburgh.

Davis became the first pick for the Steelers on the second day of the NFL draft in which they did not fulfill perhaps their biggest potential need -- at defensive end -- made a trade and drafted a quarterback.

Coach Mike Tomlin said the team needed to get bigger and younger in both of its lines, but it took the Steelers until the fourth round to address that at all and it was the only time they did in the two days of the draft. They selected 6-foot-5, 309-pound offensive tackle Tony Hills of Texas.

"You just can't get everybody," said Kevin Colbert, the team's director of football operations.

Drafting injured Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon in the fifth round was a surprise because they still had not addressed their dire depth need at defensive end and because they have Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch at the position. Dixon still has not fully recovered from a torn ACL sustained late last season but should be OK for training camp, team officials said.

The Steelers picked up an extra sixth-round pick by swapping places with the New York Giants in the fourth round. They selected Iowa linebacker Mike Humpal and West Virginia safety Ryan Mundy, a Woodland Hills High School graduate.

At 6-2 1/2, 252, Davis was considered too small to play defensive end the way he did in UCLA's 4-3 defense the past two years. But his 24 1/2 sacks during that time and his ability to make the adjustment to outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl convinced the Steelers he can follow the path of others who have successfully made the conversion here.

"He's kind of a hybrid, like a lot of the guys we've drafted," said Keith Butler, who coaches the Steelers linebackers. "We feel he can make the transition."

Butler, a former Seattle linebacker, played against Davis Sr., as did current Steelers scout Joe Greene, who told young Davis his dad was among the first 300-pound tackles he ever played against. Now, his son will try to crack a defense Mean Joe helped make famous.

"There is definitely a rich tradition at outside linebacker," Davis said. "It is a great feeling to know that the coaching staff and hopefully the people of Pittsburgh feel the same way about me. I know the tradition that I have to carry on. Tradition is very important to me."

The Steelers usually put such converted ends on special teams for a year or so as they teach them a new position. Butler said, however, they hope to use Davis to spell their two starting outside linebackers, Pro Bowler James Harrison and second-year man LaMarr Woodley.

"We feel that we needed somebody to provide us some help in that area so that James Harrison and LaMarr, as the season goes along, they don't wear down," Butler said. "Or, as the game goes along, in the fourth quarter, we'll be fresh. Hopefully, this guy can be that guy for us."

Hills arrives on a team needing offensive tackles beyond next season, when three of their four experienced tackles could become free agents. He started at left tackle for the Longhorns; at best he'll serve as a backup his rookie season.

After that pick, Steelers line coach Larry Zierlein talked about the state of his offensive line. He said Willie Colon would remain at right tackle and Max Starks will get a chance to compete for that job again. He said Chris Kemoeatu not only will step into Alan Faneca's spot as the starting left guard, but was close to starting at right guard last season instead of Kendall Simmons, who earned a big new contract extension last summer.

"He was ready to play last year," Zierlein said of Kemoeatu. "He was ready and Kendall kind of won the thing, but it was close ... the grades were close."

Dixon was drafted because he has a powerful arm, great potential and they have the luxury of allowing his torn ACL to fully heal before they let him compete for the No. 2 job in 2009.

"Big Ben Roethlisberger is a great quarterback," Dixon said, "and I want to learn the ins and outs of playing the quarterback position."


NOTES -- The Steelers were busy trying to sign 11 or 12 rookie free agents last night and hoping to find several defensive ends. ... All the rookies will join the veterans at a minicamp at the Steelers' facility Friday through Sunday.


El-Gonzo Jackson
04-28-2008, 11:43 AM
The more I read the more I like the Davis pick. 24.5 sacks in his last 2 seasons at UCLA. I think he will be a great 3rd down rusher to compliment Harrison and Woodley.

Now I would like to see Timmons pay some dividends for being such a high pick. Should have picked Jon Beason.

04-28-2008, 12:41 PM
I just hope Davis gets bigger. That small size won't cut it as an NFL DE.

We need a space eater, not a tweener. That's what 3-4 DE's do.

El-Gonzo Jackson
04-28-2008, 12:53 PM
I just hope Davis gets bigger. That small size won't cut it as an NFL DE.

We need a space eater, not a tweener. That's what 3-4 DE's do.

HE is gonna be an OLB.....not a DE.

Galax Steeler
04-28-2008, 01:02 PM
Sounds like he has the ability to play olb hope he converts nicely and contributes to the team.

Rhee Rhee
04-28-2008, 03:13 PM
HE is gonna be an OLB.....not a DE.

thank you for that EGJ...

i was hoping for bruce davis in all of my predraft mocks however i think that in the 3rd was a bit of a reach... as i was projecting him as a 4th-5th round draft pick...

he looks like jason taylor and hopefully plays like him... down the road maybe he can become the starter opposite woodley and have a pretty good NFL career..

04-28-2008, 03:22 PM
starter opposite Woodley? Where is Harrison going? Davis will be a nice backup for years to come.

04-28-2008, 03:30 PM
The more I read the more I like the Davis pick. 24.5 sacks in his last 2 seasons at UCLA. I think he will be a great 3rd down rusher to compliment Harrison and Woodley.

from what i have read. most of those sacks came against weak opponents ala porter style. to me he sounds like another one-move LB who can't stop the run.

04-28-2008, 04:00 PM
I liked everything about this guy! I read up on him as soon as we drafted him and like what I read. He'll be a quality back-up and ST player for a long time. If someone goes down I think he'll be more than capable.