LATROBE, Pa. – Dick LeBeau's draft day suspicion has been confirmed at Saint Vincent College.
First-round pick Ryan Shazier and No. 2 selection Stephon Tuitt can and will play sooner rather than later.
"I don't want to overload their plate, but I would say they're ahead of schedule," the Steelers' defensive coordinator said of Shazier, an inside linebacker from Ohio State, and Tuitt, a defensive end from Notre Dame.
"I think Ryan's going to start, and I could see Tuitt playing an awful lot of snaps."
Shazier has been running with the first-team defense next to Lawrence Timmons ever since the first Organized Team Activity in the spring.
Tuitt is listed on the depth chart as a second team defensive end, but he worked with the No. 1 group on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, when defensive end Cam Thomas slid over to nose tackle to replace Steve McLendon, who was held out of practice for three consecutive days.
"The spot's there and he has exceptional athletic ability," LeBeau said of Shazier. "I think he's going to be able to make a lot of plays for us."
As for Tuitt:
"He's an exceptional athlete for his size, and he can run," LeBeau said. "Even though I knew he could run, when I see him in person I'm surprised at his endurance and his speed and quickness. I don't know if I've seen a guy that big move like that. Now, does that mean he's going to be a great player? No, it doesn't. There are a lot of other things that come in there. But he seems willing to try to acquire that knowledge and those skills."
The Steelers' top two picks have impressed on and off the field, LeBeau maintained.
"They've been very much a pleasure for the whole coaching staff, mostly because of the type of people they are," he said. "They're hard workers and they know they have a lot to learn, and that's not always the case, and they're very open to coaching. I don't know when but we're expecting some pretty good things from those guys."
Some other observations from LeBeau as the Steelers continue preparing for Saturday night's preseason opener against the New York Football Giants:*
On the progress that's been made installing packages at training camp:
"We've already got a large percentage of the defense in, and there is a considerable percentage of it that is new."
On the defense's identifying characteristics:
"We're fast. We have good athleticism. Sometimes we don't go in the right direction with it because we're young. But they're working hard and making good progress. I feel good about his group. They're a good bunch of men. They're not adverse to hard labor and they have a lot of athletic talent."
On the Steelers' speed on defense:
"Those two safeties we have and those four linebackers we have, at those positions we can run a race with anybody in the NFL. The problem is it ain't a race, it's a football game."
On expecting to see rookie No. 1 pick Johnny Manziel start at QB for Cleveland on Sept. 7 at Heinz Field:
"I am, yeah. If not, we'll play the other guy (Brian Hoyer). But I'm taking a good look at (Manziel), let's put it that way."
On Lawrence Timmons:
"I've been saying for three years he's been playing at a Pro Bowl level."
On what can be done to eliminate the big plays the Steelers surrendered last season:
"We can play a whole lot better and coach a whole lot better."