Mike Tomlin: Steelers could have three rookie starters


When Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau was running the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense, it was exceedingly rare for a rookie to earn a starting job.

That's no longer the case under Keith Butler, who altered the defense with more zone looks after taking over for LeBeau in 2015.


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There's a chance for first-round cornerback Artie Burns, second-round safety Sean Davis and third-round nose tackle Javon Hargrave to play major roles on a defense that ranked 21st in yards allowed and 30th against the pass last year.

"I believe it's realistic," coach Mike Tomlin said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "That's why we chose them where we chose them. But they have to earn it, and we'll give them the opportunity to do that."

That's not even including 2014 second-round cornerback Senquez Golson, who missed his entire rookie season to shoulder surgery.

Although defensive line coach John Mitchell indicated that Hargrave's primary role figures to be spelling standout defensive ends Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, the defensive backs have a chance to overtake left cornerback Ross Cockrell and strong safety Robert Golden atop the depth chart.

Tomlin is counting on Burns, Davis and Golson to upgrade a leaky secondary that was the team's Achilles' heel last season.