Throughout the past few seasons the Pittsburgh Steelers have been experiencing a youth movement. Okay, maybe it wasn't when Warren Sapp went on record calling the team's defense "old and slow", but in the years that followed the Steelers have wisely started to get younger, more athletic and faster across the board.
However, throughout this transition, selecting young players to actually play hasn't been the team's forte. Under Dick LeBeau it was rare to see a rookie see the field very often. Troy Polamalu, arguably one of the best safeties in NFL history, didn't see the field in his rookie season. Instead, it was his second year where he blossomed and started to show signs of what he would eventually become.
This team is different. Maybe it is Todd Haley and Keith Butler's scheme, their simplicity or Mike Tomlin wanting to infuse youth into the lineup, but whatever the reason, the youth movement is in full effect in the Steel City.
After Week 2, it became clear just how important these young players have become to this team, and not just on defense. Looking at the offense, there are several young players (in their first NFL contract) who saw significant snaps on Sunday. The new iron man, Jesse James played in 100-percent of the team's snaps (74), Eli Rogers played in 41 snaps, Sammie Coates saw 35 offensive snaps and Xavier Grimble was a part of 17 plays.
Defensively it was even more impressive. Ryan Shazier didn't miss a snap (76), Ross Cockrell played in 74 snaps, Stephon Tuitt was a part of 70 plays, Sean Davis had 64 plays to his name, Artie Burns received 32 snaps, Anthony Chickillo 19 and Javon Hargrave 11 plays.
Looking at these numbers, it is hard to ignore the job the coaching staff has done getting these players acclimated to the system, and ready to play. When was the last time a Steelers team saw 3 defensive rookies see double-digit snap totals in one game? I don't have that answer at the moment, but I'd bet some money it has been a long time.
Some might suggest the youth and inexperience will eventually catch up with the team, essentially waiting for the other foot to drop, but this team has a look about it, particularly on defense. The youth movement continues, and fans should buckle up for a wild ride.
See below for the other snap totals, courtesy of Pro-Football Reference:
Steelers Snap Counts
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