OPEN FOR A NICKEL: S Sean Davis got an extended first-half look as the third cornerback in the five-defensive backs "nickel" defense and learned some lessons in a hurry.
His night in the Steelers' 30-17 preseason loss to the Lions on Friday night at Heinz Field included:
-A missed tackle on a first-quarter catch by WR Anquan Bolden that cost the Steelers an additional 20 yards on what became a 30-yard completion.
-A penalty for a horse-collar tackle that cost the Steelers an additional 15 yards on a 7-yard gain on third-and-3 from the Lions' 35-yard line in the second quarter.
-A tackle made after fight through a block that dropped WR Jeremy Kerley for a 1-yard gain on first-and-10 from the Steelers' 13 in the second.
"The more I was out there, the more comfortable I got," Davis said. "I got the jitters out early. Once I got calm and relaxed I played my football.
"I just couldn't believe I was playing in my first NFL game (at the outset). You know, just jittery, thinking too much, not doing my job to the standard that I have for myself. It was excited jittery. I was nervous, too, I'm not going to lie. I got the jitters out, got my first couple bangs in and I think I was good to go." Davis got a long look at safety in the second half (he had been alternating between first-team nickel and second-team safety at St. Vincent College).
"It's hard," Davis allowed. "But that's my job as of right now. I gotta do what I gotta do. The nickel, that's a really hard position, and learning the safety spot as well.
"I have a full plate. I just need to continue to work, continue to study. I'm trying to put my best reps out there at nickel and at safety. I'm trying to get on the field."
Take a look at the best photos from the preseason week one game. The Lions defeated the Steelers 30-17.
THIRD-DOWN WOES:** The defense was beaten for eight third-down conversions in 12 first-half attempts, including twice on third-and-6 and once on third-and-9 on the Lions' first possession with Matthew Stafford at quarterback.
That was eight more conversions than the Steelers managed in five first-half attempts.
PRESSURE: The Steelers were able to generate pressure at times, which helped them make the most of the third downs they were able to successfully defend.
LB James Harrison came up with a sack of Stafford and a forced fumble that was recovered by LB Arthur Moats on third-and-12 from the Steelers' 27-yard line on Detroit's first drive.
And CB Ross Cockrell came up with a pass defensed when he blitzed on third-and-7 from the Steelers' 13 late in the second.
The Steelers also turned pressure into points. QB Dan Orlovsky escaped the clutches of DE Ricardo Matthews on second-and-7 from the Detroit 31 early in the second. But when Orlovsky tried to throw the ball away he found only CB Doran Grant, who returned his interception 39 yards for a touchdown.
Still, DE Cameron Heyward wanted more.
"If we're going to be honest with ourselves we have to get off (the field) quicker," he said. "We have to work on our rush lanes a little bit more. We have to clean up some things and have better communication out there."
The Steelers finished with one sack and four QB hits on 42 Detroit passing attempts.
THEY SAID IT:** "For all of us, if you want to be a great team you have to do the things necessary to be great." _ CB William Gay on the importance of CB Doran Grant's 39-yard interception return for a touchdown for a young players such as Grant.
"I just gotta bounce back, I was careless with the ball. I just have to put the ball away. To be a guy to run with the ball you have to be able to protect it. I have to do a better job protecting the ball. I just got excited out there, being careless and trying to do too much." _ WR Sammie Coates on his two fumbles.