Steelers send message in free agency that carried through to the draft

Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

A push for defensive athleticism started in free agency has continued into the draft. The additions of Stephon Tuitt and Ryan Shazier, the Steelers have created depth and versatility that's been missing for a long time.

There was a pass-less Titans defense that put together a 13-play all-run drive, scoring a rare touchdown in an otherwise dismal game to start the season.

There was Adrian Peterson running through London like he was the sprinting equivalent of Roger Bannister, seemingly able to run without being stopped.

There's whatever the hell former Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor did.

The message this offseason? The Steelers noticed those plays. They noticed a lacking defensive front seven and they were going to do something about it. Instead of bolstering their franchise quarterback with security and older players on the offensive side of the ball, they were going to invest on defense (free safety Mike Mitchell, defensive end Cam Thomas).

And the message in the last 24 hours? They ain't dun yet.

The Steelers went after athleticism specifically within in their defensive front seven, eschewing the popular notion they needed a cornerback with one of their two top-50 picks and a wide receiver with the other.

What they needed was defensive playmakers at positions of versatility. Ryan Shazier gives them loads of versatility in sub packages as well as their base defense. He will likely start opposite Lawrence Timmons as the Old and Slow Steelers turned into the Hit and Run Steelers.

Stephon Tuitt, the team's second round pick (No. 46 overall) gives them a player who could play, depending on need, nose tackle or defensive end in base packages, and could rush from a 3-technique positions or a 7-technique position in sub packages. Pairing him with Steve McLendon and Cameron Heyward creates a fearsome combination of speed and strength the team simply did not have last year.

Probably not the year before, either. In fact, the last time the Steelers had multiple defensive linemen and linebackers with the kind of speed and strength as a collective group may have been a time when a Chin patrolled the sideline and the Steelers were hurting from the Tommy Maddox Era.

Or, to put it another way, they may have just added another Cameron Heyward and Timmons. If they can get them on the field at the same time, heads would roll.

The slow reaction of age may be replaced with the same one of inexperience but the team's first, second and third priority is to get that athleticism translated into production on the field.

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