Steelers' linebacker Davis eager to make impact

| Sunday, May 3, 2009

Outside linebacker Bruce Davis didn't make a single play as a rookie — no tackles, sacks or interceptions — which is why he couldn't wait to get into the weight room and bulk up so he never goes through a season like that again.

A third-round pick in 2008, Davis shouldn't be labeled a bust because he wasn't on the field long enough to show he could play. But he knows the pressure is on him to produce this year.

"Last year, I don't want to say it was disappointing," said Davis, who had 29 career sacks at UCLA. "I would have hoped it would have gone another way, but it didn't."

Davis expects making a bigger contribution in 2009 because "the difference between year one and year two is I'm a lot more comfortable."

"I know the calls now," he said. "I don't have second-guess myself. I can just play. I know what I'm doing. I get to use what I've got. Anytime you're out there thinking on the football field, you're not moving as fast as you can. Now, if I get a call, I run with the call."

In college, Davis was always among the most talented players on the field. In the NFL, everyone can play, and Davis needed to change his approach.

"I got a lot stronger," said Davis, who is spending his offseason in Pittsburgh. "I got in the weight room with (conditioning coach Garrett Giemont and conditioning assistant Marcel Pastoor).

"I lost a little bit of weight (255 pounds, down from 262) and gained some muscle. I definitely feel like I have a half-step back from last year."

That extra half-step can make all the difference for a speed pass rusher — if Davis can get on the field. He's playing behind James Harrison, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and LaMarr Woodley, who had 11.5 sacks in his first season as a starter.

"Realistically," Davis said, "am I going to take James Harrison's spot• I doubt it. That's just being real. The way it worked last year, I got to sit back and learn watching the best defense in the game. Until my number is called to make plays on defense, I'm going to play special teams like I'm out there playing outside linebacker. I'm going to go as hard as I can and try to knock some people out.

"Special teams is definitely a huge phase of this game and this team. Coach (Mike) Tomlin puts emphasis on special teams.

"But you can always get better. I want to get better on special teams and make an impact."

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