Steelers Film Room: Safeties Make Touchdown Saving Plays Against Ravens

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense certainly had their share of problems in Sunday’s win over the Baltimore Ravens and as we’ve seen several times throughout the season, poor tackling led their list of gaffes.

Those tacking problems aside, the Steelers defense still managed to make a few plays throughout the game and a few of them came in the end zone. The two big ones that first come to mind were plays made by the Steelers starting safeties, Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis.

With 6:05 left in the first quarter, the Ravens faced a 2nd and 11 from the Steelers 23-yard-line and Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco attempted to go deep to wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who ran a corner route out of the slot against the Steelers cover-3 defense. Defensively for the Steelers, cornerback Artie Burns was late recognizing the out-breaking Perriman entering his third of the field as he seemed to be preoccupied with the short in-breaking route that was already covered by fellow cornerback William Gay as part of the underneath zone. With Burns slow to recognize Perriman, Mitchell then had to hurry to get over the top to prevent the Ravens wide receiver from making the catch.

While Perriman would have had to make a tough catch even if Mitchell doesn’t get to him in time, the Steelers safety makes sure that he has no chance to come down with the football. The pass breakup resulted in a third and long for the Ravens offense and after they failed to convert it, they were forced to settle for a field goal.

With 14:27 left in the fourth quarter, it was Davis’ turn to save a touchdown.

On 3rd and 3 from the Steelers 4-yard-line, the Ravens ran a snag concept (corner, snag, flat) to the right wider side of the field. We’ve see the Steelers offense run this concept quite frequently over the years so the Steelers defense should have been quite familiar with the route combinations.

On the play, it looks like the Steelers are in cover-6 with Davis serving as the deep safety on the half portion. As the play progresses, Ravens tight end Darren Waller runs the corner route of the snag concept which results in him running away from Davis. While Flacco makes a solid throw to Waller, who catches the football with two hands while getting both of his feet in bounds, the trailing Davis is able to get his right hand inside to knock the football of the hands of the tight end as he’s going out of bounds.

Davis’ pass breakup forced the Ravens the settle for another field goal to make it a 20-10 game. The Steelers offense then responded with their first of three fourth quarter touchdowns.

In summation, Mitchell and Davis combined to save 8 total points.

  • Taylor Williams

    We have a pretty good duo of safeties. Though the Ravens pretty much ran all over Mitchell.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I thought that second one was a td when I watched it live! Then I saw Davis celebrate and I said to myself, “What in the world?!”

  • SteelersDepot

    I thought the same thing.

  • colingrant

    Davis’ pass breakup is the second most impressive play of the game. I actually didn’t believe reports that it was a breakup until this footage. I thought his arm extension was never a factor and that the receiver simply dropped the pass. That’s an extraordinary defensive play.

  • Dave talked about this on the podcast. I definitely appreciated the effort watching it live. Like everyone else I thought it was a touchdown for sure.

  • Geoffrey Benedict

    Indeed, that he even got there in time to make contact with the receiver is impressive, but to get that arm in there and poke the ball away?

    That’s incredible. He’s making game altering plays almost every week. I love it.

  • Geoffrey Benedict

    That first play it looks like Flacco gave a lot of respect to Burns’ athleticism, leading the receiver deep and away from Burns even as Burns is watching the wrong route.

    It was the right decision, Burns would have had a real shot at the ball if he threw to where the receiver was heading.

  • look at Flacco’s arms go up once he thinks it’s a touchdown. Lol what a jag

  • I.P. Freeley

    Regarding the last one, when I saw it live I thought it was a TD.
    The throw was a bit late, but if not for SD’s hustle, that’s 6.
    That was clutch! It’s really exciting and encouraging to see these guys stepping up.

  • Matt Manzo

    The game happens so fast that I didn’t realize how great a play this was!
    This is why I wanted Sean Davis! Once the game slows down for him, he’s gonna be great!

  • gentry_gee

    Kid did good to make up the ground he gave up in coverage. It was lucky to be sure but he went for it and made it happen.

  • StarSpangledSteeler


    I concur with your entire post.

    I was a big fan of Davis before the draft. He was a little less touted than some of the other safeties, but he had better measurables. And, in my view, that made him a gamble, but a smart gamble.

    He had some flaws for sure (missed tackles, coverage gaffes) but he also had some very rare assets (elite strength, elite change of direction). He beat both Vernon Hargraves and Jalen Ramsey in the 20 yard shuttle. And he topped all DB’s in bench and broad jump. Those type of athletes are rare.

    But perhaps his greatest asset is his intelligence. The kid speaks Mandarin Chinese, one of the most difficult languages on earth to master. He knows how to study, and he knows how to learn. And he is applying those skills to the NFL.

    He still misses some tackles. He still gets beat in coverage. But he is also making plays. Big plays.

    I suspect it won’t be too long before those draft pundits who said we “reached” on Davis in the 2nd round realize they were a bit mistaken.

  • Steeler4l1f3

    These types of plays illustrate why this team is better equipped to defend the pass this year. The additional of S. Davis and Burns along with improved coverage from Mitchell and Cockrell has this team in good shape coverage wise. Other than teams checking down to a HB or TE and exposing our LBs this team is playing solid pass defense.

    That being said the red zone D has to continue to show up game every game from here on out to keep our SB hopes alive.

  • razaard2

    It sucks that when the secondary finally stepped up, the D-Line got injured. Some People were questioning how our pass rush and front seven improved after wreck it got hurt, and the answer is simple: better secondary. The defense is a machine. Hopefully Tuitt will be 100% during the POs and our D will be borderline elite.
    Yeah, I said it, elite. Why not? We have been a top 10 defense overall during the season, despite the early struggles. Reaching our peak, we are top five (sure have been during the winning streak), and thus elite. Who could guess it early on the season?

  • Steve Bozell

    Let’s throw Mitchell a parade because he did his job as a free safety on one play, and ignore all of the bad angles and missed tackles this year.

  • srdan

    It seems like you didn’t watch the last 5 games.

  • mem359

    As confusing as the “football move” rule is, it was good to have it around for cases like this. The DB *should* be rewarded for being able to break up a pass like this.

  • lol jeez

  • nutty32

    A little rosterbating, but wouldn’t it make more sense to switch Davis and Mitchell. Mitchell has much more of a SS mentality than a FS one & he’s terrible at making the safe tackle as the last line of defense. Davis seems more the cerebral, big picture type guy that will sacrifice glory to keep the lid on things v. going in balls out trying to deliver a knock out hit.
    Thre’s very little dead money in cutting Mitchell this off season. Is Mitchell really a $5 million dollar/yr player? Would love to see Davis at FS, Shazier as the SS and Vince & LT holding down ILB. Vince sits in nickel & maybe even use Shazier in the LB spot in dime along with the extra DB’s.

  • colingrant

    Star – I too liked him before the draft for the things you mention above and the fact that he played corner and didn’t look like a safety playing corner, but like a college corner playing college corner, if you know what I mean.

    His intelligence was evident early on by the fact that the coaches first put him in the slot which requires trust earned by understanding concepts and mastering position assignments. I’ve noticed over the years they only try stuff if the player can absorb and retain in both assignments and concepts, which is where I believe Gilbert is struggling with a little bit. Both he and Cockrell are pretty sharp cookies.

    The agility, and the arm extension, (which requires body rotation at top speed) enabling him to reach the OUTSTRETCHED arms area without interference is remarkable.I know it sounds like I’m going over the top, but it’s a over the top play. He played it with the dexterity and flexibility of a corner. The ONLY safeties on the Steelers in the past that I can think of that could have made that play are Troy P and Carnell Lake.

    Looking forward, his upside will be met after in his 3rd year starting when he’s seen division opponents over 4 times each, recognizes offensive formations that lead to specific plays called and have retained the tendencies, strengths and limitations of opposing receiver, etc. This area is what separated Troy P from the rest. He’s actually doing some of this already as I’m seeing no hesitation from him on run support. He’s flying in which suggests he trust what he sees and is acting instantly on it.

  • Brendan

    I was up in section 526 and i had to look away when Flacco threw that ball to Waller. I thought for sure it was 6. Great play.

  • Steve Bozell

    His best play may have been his missed tackle that stopped the clock and gave Ben 1:18 to win the division.

  • SilverSteel

    Man, I am no Mitchell lover, but he has been playing lights out for our winning run and we are not a better team with say…Golden in his spot. I do not like the celebrations he does but he has been solid. He also brings a mental edge that the younger guys seem to feed off of – sort of a nastiness. There is not enough of that in the league today.

    I am dating myself but, I remember when one play from Lambert could swing the whole momentum of a game, like when he threw Cliff Harris to the ground in Super Bowl X after he patted our kicker on the head like a puppy. The whole tone of the game changed to the Steelers as the intimidators. Porter, Greg Lloyd, Harrison, and many others have that same quality and the young guys are stabilized when you have those types playing with you. I am not advocating dirty play mind you, just saying that there is a place for a nasty streak in the NFL that serves the team well when playing teams like the Ravens that are physical and intimidating. Burfict could be one of those guys but he takes it too far and is dirty and has little character.

    Does he have room to improve – absolutely. But , even Ben is making mistakes and Mitchell has made some splash this season. Another example would be Suggs, dirty player – no, intimidating and nasty – yes.

  • SilverSteel

    The turn around has truly been remarkable. You know the secondary has gelled when the whole D line is 2nd string and we still hold our own. Proud of our guys and tip my cap to the coaching staff for the preparation and motivation.

  • srdan

    I went to the rocky blier play this weekend in Pittsburgh. It’s called “the play”. It’s about Rockys life and improbable come back.

    But he played that play you mentioned on the projector. When lambert slammed the cowboy. I’m younger and wasn’t aware of the play, but two older guys around me turned to their wives and almost silmotenously said to their wives “that changed the ‘momentum’ in the game”

    Nice tidbit of yinzer history

  • srdan

    He should be flagged for being a jag

  • Charles Haines

    Moving Shazier to SS would be tragic, This guy is going to be NFL defensive MVP real soon. At ILB.

  • LHW

    Sean Davis and Artie Burns – wow. Getting their experience while winning. Getting confidence against the Ravens, a fierce division rival as well. This will give them additional confidence next year when they meet knowing they can not only start, but impact the game. If they can work out communication with Mitchell this secondary could be incredible. If Golson can contribute, and if the Steelers continue to develop their pass rush, this defense could be at the top of the league. Especially with a healthy offense they can force teams to play from behind opening up more opportunities for big plays.