Carey Davis, a first-year free agent, did more than win a roster spot in the Steelers backfield. He has supplanted Dan Kreider, a five-year starter, as the No. 1 fullback.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said yesterday that Davis, who has never played in an NFL game, will be the starter when the Steelers open their regular season Sunday in Cleveland. What's more, it's possible Kreider might be deactivated against the Browns, a decision that will be made by coach Mike Tomlin.
"Everything is week to week, but he will be the fullback," Arians said of Davis (5-10, 225) "He's doing a nice job for us."
Davis was signed to the practice squad in November 2006 -- his fifth NFL team in four years -- and stayed there for the remainder of the season. He further impressed the coaches in training camp with his running, receiving and blocking and was also a standout on special teams.
But when the Steelers kept Kreider on their 53-man roster, it was generally assumed it was done to pair him in the backfield with Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker. It was Parker, coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, who said he preferred having a fullback such as Kreider in the backfield rather than a tight end who would occasionally line up in the backfield.
Kreider, an undrafted free agent who was the team's rookie of the year in 2000, has started 62 games in six seasons with the Steelers and had become one of the best blocking fullbacks in the league. Most of his teammates still talk about the devastating block he put on Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis several years ago to clear a path for Jerome Bettis.
But under the direction of Arians, who is in his first season as offensive coordinator, the role of the fullback position in the offense has changed, if not diminished.
Arians likes to use a lot of formations using four wide receivers or three tight ends, even in run situations, eliminating the need for a fullback.
Even during the second week of training camp, Arians sounded an early warning when he said there might be games where Kreider won't even dress.
"We'll see how that goes," Arians said. "Right now, [Davis] will be the first-and-10 fullback."