Under former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, rookies of the Pittsburgh Steelers rarely got the opportunity to play with any regularity on the team's defense. It isn't as if there wasn't a method to LeBeau's madness. He preferred to have rookies learn by watching rather than have them make mistakes on the field. It makes sense.
However, with Keith Butler now the defensive coordinator, and faced with a depleted secondary, he might not have the choice as the team drafted 3 defensive backs in the 2015 NFL Draft. Senquez Golson in the second round out of Ole Miss, Doran Grant in the fourth round out of Ohio State and Gerod Holliman in the seventh round out of Louisville.
You can count defensive backs coach Carnell Lake as someone who isn't afraid of having rookies play early in their careers. Why? That is exactly what happened to him as a rookie in 1989 for the Steelers. "That's basically how I was raised in the NFL," Lake told Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "From day one, I was thrown in the fire. You make a lot of mistakes. If you can correct those quickly, and make some plays while you're doing it, you can stay around a while."
Lake has seen a lot of promise in the current crop of rookie defensive backs, and is hopeful someone will be able to step up in 2015 and be a productive member of the defense.
"We'll see," Lake said. "I've got my eyes on a couple of guys who can help us. Based on our history, one of the younger guys has had to step in. I like their demeanor. They're very professional. They're diligent and want to get better, and they're showing they do have some playmaking ability. It's just a matter of bringing them along."
"I'm really happy with the progress they've been making out there," Lake said. "We have young guys and they're making young mistakes. But the energy level, the focus, the determination is at the top right now. You can just feel it. They're excited. I'm excited for them. And I can't wait to see what they have in training camp."
Despite an official depth chart being released by the Steelers, the current starters as of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) would clearly be William Gay, Cortez Allen and Antwon Blake. Whether those three are atop the depth chart at the end of the season is very much up for debate, but count Lake as someone who is open to having a rookie in the mix for some significant playing time this season.