He doesn't remember exactly when it happened, but Sean Davis said there was a game when all of a sudden things started to slow down. It was the point where he went from being a rookie trying to figure everything out, to an NFL player who got it.
"It came toward the latter half of the season," said Davis. "I am not sure which game it clicked, but it was in the second half of the season where the game slowed down."
It's no coincidence that just so happened to be around the same time that Davis became the Steelers' starting strong safety, a job he held down for the last seven games of the regular season and into the postseason.
Davis, who has been lauded for his versatility, put that on display early in the season. He started at cornerback in the season-opener against the Redskins and played slot cornerback in packages. He had some struggles along the way. He leaned on veteran safety Mike Mitchell, who took him under his wing and showed him the ropes on and off the field.
"He has helped me so much," said Davis. "This was my first year and I didn't know a lot. I got a lot from Coach (Carnell) Lake, (Keith) Butler and (Mike) Tomlin. But getting it from a player who is out there, my sidekick, we are out there. He has been there done it. I don't have to rely only on experience. I can take it from his wisdom and him making plays out there. I am thankful for him."
Mitchell played a key role in helping Davis make the transition back to strong safety, a move that helped the young player's confidence grow as he settled in to the role.
"My head was spinning, especially in the first half of the season when I was playing nickel, a whole new position," said Davis. "I wasn't out of position, but it wasn't me out there.
"Going through this year, which was a great year, it relieved me of some worries that I can play different positions at this level. I can play hard, I can play fast, and I can make it at this level. I have to continue to work and success will come."
Davis, the Steelers' No. 2 pick last year, was one of three rookies who started for the team in 2016. He edged out fellow rookie starters Artie Burns and Javon Hargrave to win the Joe Greene Great Performance Award, presented to the team's rookie of the year. But he knows he has to continue to grow, especially making the jump from first-year to second-year player.
"I understand the expectations will be higher," said Davis. "After having a pretty decent year, plays being made, that is the expectation. That is the same for me. This was my first year so in my head I am hoping this is the worst I am going to play. I am going to continue to work, continue to improve.
"I didn't know how good this team was when I was drafted, but now I do and I want more. For me, last year being my first season and going all the way to the championship game, I saw that is the expectation. I want to do everything I can to contribute, to be a big part of it, and to make plays to get further."