In what has become a passing league the Steelers are beefing up to stop the run.
And they’re determined enough toward that end that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is prepared to start rookies in an effort to do so.
“Both of these players, if all develops as anticipated, are going to get a lot of playing time,” LeBeau announced.
He was speaking after the Steelers drafted Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier on the first round and Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt on the second round.
“Sometimes in the past we’ve been in a position where our draft choices don’t necessarily have to play for a year or so,” LeBeau continued. “That is definitely not the case in this situation.
“We’ve got two excellent football players who are going to add depth if not quality starters right away.”
Multiple rookies starting on defense?
What’s next, cheerleaders?
LeBeau acknowledged “anxiety” heading into the draft but insisted “that anxiety has been quieted greatly,” following the Steelers’ second round selection.
He did so well aware that neither Shazier nor Tuitt play cornerback.
“We may have great players in the building already; they just haven’t had a chance to show us that they’re great,” LeBeau offered.
In the event that’s actually not the case “maybe we’ll get a corner on the next pick,” LeBeau added.
What they think they got on the first two picks are players the Steelers believe can help them get back to playing Steelers defense.
They weren’t good enough against the run or the pass last season.
The idea in response seems to be to get back to running and hitting and let the rest sort itself out.
Consider LeBeau on Shazier: “I think he’s going to be a problem (for opponents). He’s going to get on people quicker than they know because he’s very fast.”
Consider LeBeau on Tuitt: “You always have to have power on the field. A big guy like Tuitt suits that purpose no matter what the down and distance is. He has value on all downs."
And consider defensive line coach John Mitchell on Tuitt: “A lot of people put a lot more premium on guys who can rush the passer, but in this division and in this league if you do not stop the run you don’t have a chance to win many football games. The thing I like about Stephon is he can stack, shed and he can run to the ball.”
The Steelers are apparently operating under the assumption that if you can’t stop the run, force obvious passing situations and then rush the passer, it won’t matter much who’s covering.
It’s an interesting theory.
The truly exciting part is we won’t have to wait long to test it in practice.
The rookies are playing; so enamored with their selections are the Steelers that even they can’t wait to see the difference they’re convinced their rookies can make.