Jun 17, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier (50) participates in drills during minicamp at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers' Ryan Shazier, Stephon Tuitt poised for big rookie seasons

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense got a major facelift this offseason with the drafting of Ryan Shazier and Stephon Tuitt in the 2014 NFL Draft as the unit looks to go from old and slow to young and fast under Dick LeBeau.

Shazier was the team’s first round pick out of Ohio State and is expected to start at one of the two inside linebacker sports for the Steelers next to Lawrence Timmons and in the process become the first rookie starter in the Steel City since Kendrell Bell all the way back in 2011.

Longtime defensive coordinator, LeBeau could not hide his excitement for the pair of rookies in comments made to the team’s official website.

“I don’t want to overload their plate, but I would say they’re ahead of schedule,” LeBeau said, via the team’s official website. “I think Ryan’s going to start, and I could see Tuitt playing an awful lot of snaps.”

Tuitt likely would have been a first round pick, perhaps even a top-10 pick if not for an injury he suffered during his final season at Notre Dame and has the size, strength and mobility to be a force as an end in the Steelers three-man front.

It is difficult to find players big and strong enough to hold up against the run yet also mobile and athletic enough to play on the edge and rush the passer, but Tuitt is the rare breed of athlete who is the complete package for a five-technique.

“He’s an exceptional athlete for his size, and he can run,” LeBeau added. “Even though I knew he could run, when I see him in person I’m surprised at his endurance and his speed and quickness.”

Coupled with last year’s first round pick, Jarvis Jones, who is in line to make a much bigger impact than he did as a rookie could give the Steelers the type of defense they are accustomed to having and could be the lift they need to get back to the top of the AFC North standings.

Tags: Football Pittsburgh Steelers Ryan Shazier Stephon Tuitt

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