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Steelers' speed set to be a difference maker on defense

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The Pittsburgh Steelers' upgraded their team in many different ways this offseason, but none more so than the speed on the defensive side of the football.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Speed kills.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' defense went from "old and slow" to "young and fast" almost over night, and at the team's first mandatory workouts players and coaches are taking notice of the upgrades made on defense. None more than the quarterback that has to diagnose that new defense.

"I talked to Troy (Polamalu) yesterday and I told him this is a fast defense," Ben Roethlisberger told Scott Brown of ESPN, "We may not have a lot of names that people know, but we're flying around. It's tough to go against every day out there, but it's going to be fun to watch on Sundays."

Veteran players Ryan Clark, Brett Keisel and Larry Foote have all been replaced with younger and faster versions. Out with the old, and in with the new. The new being safety Mike Mitchell and rookies Stephon Tuitt and Ryan Shazier are just a few examples of how the Steelers have upgraded their overall speed on defense.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau realizes that having the speed is just one piece of the puzzle for corralling the speed on defense."If we can get that speed going in the right direction people will have to identify who's coming from where." "Right now at this stage of the game I'm very excited about where we are."

All of these players, their development and the skills they bring to the table is extremely exciting for players and fans of the Steelers, but none might be as impressive from a speed and playing time standpoint than 1st round draft choice, Ryan Shazier.

Shazier has been thrust into the starting lineup from day one, and looks to be a difference maker at the inside linebacker position in 2014 with his overall speed and athleticism. Linebackers coach Keith Butler is all too familiar with starting rookies and what that entails.

"I don't like to play rookies, because in defensive football there's two things that can get you beat. One of them is missed tackles, the other is mental mistakes. Normally when you try to learn this defense, it's going to take you a little while to do it." "We don't have a choice whether we can play him [Shazier] or not. We've got to play him and win."

The Steelers defense will have it's growing pains this season, but that doesn't mean that the unit won't be solid in the process. "We've had as good an OTAs (practices) as I've been a part of." When someone with the experience of Dick LeBeau says that, things might be looking up for this unit.