Young Steelers learn lessons in preseason loss to Lions
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Second-year Steelers cornerback Doran Grant had an interception return for a touchdown, receiver Sammie Coates committed two costly fumbles and rookie defensive back Sean Davis settled in after a shaky start in his first NFL game.
It was a “welcome to the NFL” moment for three young Pittsburgh players in particular during Friday’s 30-17 preseason loss to the Detroit Lions.
“The first (game) felt good,” said Davis, the Steelers’ second-round pick. “I was a little nervous, I’m not going to lie, but once I was out there, it was just playing football again.”
Davis, a safety who got the start at first-team slot cornerback, bounced off veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a missed tackle on third-and-6 during the Lions’ opening drive.
“I had nerves and tried to make up for it and crush him, but I didn’t know he was that big,” said Davis, who had a reputation as a hard-hitting safety at Maryland.
Davis also committed a 15-yard horse-collar penalty before settling down, snuffing out a screen in the red zone and starting the second half at safety.
“The more I was out there, the more comfortable I got,” he said.
That seems to be the case for Grant, too.
Grant, the Steelers’ 2015 fourth-round pick, was initially released before the season started but added to the practice squad after clearing waivers. He was later promoted to the active roster and appeared in three games.
“That year on the practice squad really helped me a lot development-wise,” Grant said.
It certainly showed against the Lions, with Grant appearing confident in space, finishing with a team-best eight tackles, including seven solo.
“I’d say that’s a strong part of my game,” he said. “I just did my job.”
Grant’s biggest moment came early in the second when he picked off Dan Orlovsky and returned the interception 39 yards for a touchdown.
“I was just playing my position and reacting,” Grant said. “I caught the ball, completed it and took it all the way.”
Grant said he lost weight and entered camp in better shape compared with his rookie season. He’s also adjusting better to the speed of the game and route concepts.
Despite his progress, Grant realizes there aren’t any guarantees in the NFL.
“I thought there was a good opportunity last year, but it’s the same every year,” he said. “You have to come in, ready to go and compete.”
Coates expects to rebound after fumbling twice against the Lions.
“I had a terrible start,” he said. “I had a couple mistakes that I never do. I just have to learn from them and fight back.”
Coates has dazzled at times during training camp, displaying his deceptive speed and playing taller than his 6-foot-1 frame for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and others.
But moments of inconsistency occasionally surface and it happened again Friday against the Lions. He bobbled a pass before a reception and fumbled two plays later, which led to a Lions’ field goal. Coates fumbled again later on an end-around.
“I tried to do too much, being careless with the ball and leaving it unprotected,” he said. “It’s about being a great player and great players find a way to bounce back.”
The Steelers anticipate a big jump from Coates in his second season as he helps fill the void after young, talented receiver Martavis Bryant was suspended one year for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Coates displayed his potential during the AFC Divisional playoff game against Denver with 61 yards on two receptions, including a 37-yard catch-and-run.
He expects more this season — but first wants to rebound from the game against Detroit.
“I can’t go back and change anything about this game,” Coates said. “I fumbled twice and I have to fix it. I just have to be more careful with the ball.”