The Maryland football program has multiple representatives playing in the NFL’s conference championship games this weekend.
If all goes well, three Terrapins could be playing in Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5.
Safety Sean Davis and wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey will be suiting up for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the New England Patriots at 6:40 p.m. on Sunday. On the other hand, defensive tackle Joe Vellano was just promoted to the active roster for the Atlanta Falcons earlier this week.
The Falcons take on the Green Bay Packers in the 3:05 game.
Out of the three, Davis is likely to see the most snaps as he is Pittsburgh’s starting strong safety. On the season, the former Maryland star finished fourth on the team with 70 tackles (55 solo) while recording five defended passes, 1.5 sacks, and an interception.
Davis started 11 games for the Steelers, including the first two postseason contests. He’s accumulated seven tackles (four solo) against the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs.
The former Terp also was fined $24,000 for his hit on Chiefs’ wideout Chris Conley in last weekend’s Divisional round game. In addition, Davis broke up Kansas City’s second two-point conversion attempt late in the fourth quarter.
After being selected in the second round by the Steelers, Davis certainly hasn’t played like a rookie. In fact, he’s been one of the biggest bright spots on Pittsburgh’s defense.
On the other hand, Heyward-Bey hasn’t seen nearly the same amount of playing time this season.
The former Maryland speedster did miss six games with a foot injury. However, he still only recorded six receptions for 114 yards and a pair of touchdowns
He also rushed for a 60-yard touchdown against the Dolphins back in Week 6.
Heyward-Bey returned to action in Week 16 and caught a 46-yard pass from backup quarterback Landry Jones in Week 17 against the Cleveland Browns. He also caught a pass for 10 yards against the Dolphins in the Divisional round.
At this stage in his career, Heyward-Bey isn’t going to see a ton of snaps. It doesn’t help his cause that Pittsburgh also has the likes of Antonio Brown, Sammie Coates, and Eli Rogers cutting into his playing time.
Heyward-Bey does still have that breakaway speed that he possessed when he was making plays for the Maryland football program. A deep catch or long run is never out of the question when it comes to Heyward-Bey.
Finally, Vellano returns to conference championship weekend as he will suit up for the Falcons.
Vellano saw the field during the 2013 and 2014 seasons for the Patriots. 2013 was easily his most productive as he tallied 54 tackles (20 solo) and a pair of sacks during New England’s Super Bowl run.
He won a ring that season when the Patriots topped the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. Vellano also started eight games during the regular season that year, so he’ll be able to draw off of previous experiences.
He replaced Adrian Clayborn, who was placed on injured reserve. Atlanta only has three other defensive tackles listed on their depth chart.
One is former Baltimore Ravens second round pick Courtney Upshaw, who is more of a defensive end. The Falcons start veteran Jonathan Babineaux and former Clemson star Grady Jarrett.
The team definitely doesn’t have a ton of depth, so Vellano has a good chance of playing a decent amount of snaps on Sunday.
In Super Bowl 50, former Terps Vernon Davis and Darius Kilgo ended up winning rings when the Denver Broncos topped the Carolina Panthers.
While Atlanta and Pittsburgh may not be the popular picks by analysts around the country, both stand a significant chance of making it to the big game. If they do, there will be a heavy flavor from the Maryland football program in Houston.