When the Steelers signed former Kansas City Chiefs running back Knile Davis the immediate assumption was that he would serve as Le’Veon Bell’s backup and DeAngelo Williams was done. But that may not be the case. While he is a decent running back, Davis has been earning his roster spot a different way the last few years.
He’s been a pretty good kick returner.
— Blitzburgh (@Steel_Curtain4) March 20, 2017
Kansas City drafted him out of Arkansas in the third round of the 2013 draft. At the time, they had Jamal Charles running the ball but to make use of his speed the Chiefs gave him a shot at returning kicks. He only returned ten as a rookie but averaged 32 yards a return and returned one 108 yards for a touchdown.
They let him return more kicks over the next two seasons. For their confidence, Davis returned another one for a touchdown in 2014 and another during the 2015 playoffs. With only 73 kick returns to his name, he doesn’t meet the minimum requirement for Pro-Football Reference’s career active leader list. But if he did, his average of 26.8 yards a return would rank him fifth among active kick returners.
Pittsburgh had five guys return kicks last year. The average return among the group was just 21.5 yards; no one scored a touchdown. They only used four guys in 2015 and did slightly better per return at 24.2 yards, but no touchdowns. The last time the Steelers did return a kick return for a touchdown was in 2011 by—you guessed it—Antonio Brown.
So—what does this mean? Well, the team could look at him as Le’Veon Bell’s backup. But they could also see him primarily as a kick returner that could be used in the backfield if necessary.
This could also mean that there could still be a place for DeAngelo Williams on next year’s roster.