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Steelers' Ryan Shazier, Stephon Tuitt to play big roles

When Around The Leagueprojected the starting lineups for every NFL team in May, first-round linebackerRyan Shazier was tentatively inserted as the first defensive rookie to start for the Pittsburgh Steelerssince Kendrell Bell in 2001.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau confirmed this week that Shazier and second-round defensive end Stephon Tuitt are both ticketed for major roles on his defense.

"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."

LeBeau cited "exceptional athletic ability" as the reason why Shazier will become the rare player to adjust on the fly to the exotic blitzes and pressures featured in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers believe No. 46 overall pick Tuitt would have gone off the board in the top-10 slots if not for a hernia injury last season.

"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."

If you're keeping score at home, that's two "exceptional" athletes added to a defense that fell out of the top 10 last season for the first time in the 21st century.

NFL Media analyst Warren Sapp has finally conceded the Steelers have made the transformation from old and slow to a team with impressive speed on both sides of the ball.

The latest Around The League Podcast debates which offense will be the NFL's most prolific and dives into the quarterback battles in Cleveland and Minnesota..

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