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Galax Steeler
05-29-2009, 03:33 AM
The BMOC of UCLA has been MIA in Pittsburgh.

Linebacker Bruce Davis went from what he called a "rock star" in college football to almost rock bottom with the Steelers.

"I'd be lying if I said it's not a blow to the ego," said Davis, who ranked second in UCLA history with 29 career sacks, 24 1/2 of them in his final two seasons. "You go from being the rock star as they called it back at school, you go from being the guy, the guy who is depended on making big plays when they needed them, to really the bottom of the totem pole."

The "bottom" usually meant not pulling on a uniform for games last season. Davis, the Steelers' third-round draft choice in 2008, suited up for five games as a rookie. He had no stats, no tackles.

"It was definitely tough, mentally," said Davis. "Mentally, I tried to stay focused, but it definitely took it's toll on me. I kind of got down on myself, but I had to come to the realization that I'm playing for the Steelers, the NFL, and I have great players in front of me."

It was not so much players such as starting outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, though. It was fellow rookies such as Patrick Bailey, an undrafted outside linebacker.

Bailey made the team based on his superior special teams play and became the club's rookie of the year after climbing up from the practice squad.

Now Bailey is among the competition behind Harrison and Woodley to become the top backup at outside linebacker this season. Others include veterans Arnold Harrison and Andre Frazier.

Lawrence Timmons had that No. 1 backup role outside last season as well as his job as the nickel linebacker and No. 1 backup inside, but Timmons has been promoted to starting inside linebacker at Larry Foote's old spot.

Coach Mike Tomlin stuck to the facts on what Davis must do to earn his keep.

"Quite simply, he has to play better than some of the guys he's competing with. At the end of the day that's the measuring stick, that's what training camp in Latrobe is about and that's what makes it exciting. I don't make it a secret, I'm a proponent of competition. It's going to be fun to watch some of the competition unfold at the outside linebacker position as guys try to find a seat on the bus, if you will."

Davis' relative inactive rookie season is not an unusual one for those trying to make the transition from college end to 3-4 outside linebacker with the Steelers. Among those who successfully made the switch were Woodley, Joey Porter, Clark Haggans, Jason Gildon and Mike Vrabel, none a first-year starter. Of course, there were others who did not, such as Steven Conley, a third-round pick in 1996. Davis prefers to follow the path blazed by the larger group.

"I look at it as motivation," Davis said. "I have big shoes to fill, not just the outside linebackers and guys making that transition but the linebacker history period, the Steelers history period."

Woodley made that transition as quickly as anyone. He had six sacks, including two in the playoffs, in a part-time role as a rookie in 2007. He became a starter last season and recorded 17 1/2 sacks, including six in three postseason games. He has taken Davis under his wing and knows the difficult adjustment that has to be made switching positions.

"It's real tough because you're used to rushing every play and not really looking at formations as far as where the receivers are," he said of playing end. "You just basically look at the running back and get the read on the offensive linemen.

"As an outside linebacker, you have to know what everyone's doing around you, not just yourself. You have to know everything."

A disappointment for the Steelers was Davis' inability to win a job on special teams last season while he was learning his new position. Most of the others in transition were great special teams players before they became starters.

Whether Davis can step out of Steven Conley territory and into the other group could be determined this summer.

"We're not evaluating, we're just teaching at this point," Tomlin said. "What he is doing is he's putting himself in position to compete. He's been one of the poster boys for the offseason program, if you will. We say the first rule of getting better is showing up. He's done a nice job of that and he's working."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09148/973341-66.stm

fansince'76
05-29-2009, 05:13 PM
Sorry, already posted: http://forums.steelersfever.com/showthread.php?t=36075