Tomlin On Top Defensive Rookies: ‘I’m Excited About What They’re Going To Do’

Not only are the Pittsburgh Steelers top-three draft picks from this year playing a lot right now, they’re also starting to contribute significantly in positive ways when on the field.

In the Steelers Thursday night win over the Indianapolis Colts, cornerback Artie Burns, safety Sean Davis and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave each had five combined tackles and roughly have of those resulted in failed plays by the Colts offense.

After the game was over, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin spoke about what he’s seeing right now out his three defensive draft picks.

“Forget what they’ve done, I’m excited about what they’re going to do, or what they’re capable of doing moving forward because they work hard every day,” Tomlin said. “They’re getting better, they’re adding detail to their game every week. I think the first thing is that all three are likable young guys. They endear themselves to older players, the older players want to help them and that helps them help us. So, they’re humble, hard-working and that helps them to get help from veteran players. It just needs to continue.”

Davis, who was the Steelers only defensive player to play every snap Thursday night against the Colts, made a touchdown-saving tackle in the game on Indianapolis quarterback Scott Tolzien late in the first half. Tomlin was sure to point that play out after the game

“One instance, Sean Davis – the quarterback was scrambling – he made the definitive decision to come out of coverage and make a tackle,” Tomlin said.

That tackle by Davis on Tolzien came on a 3rd and goal play and the Steelers defense ultimately stood strong on the ensuing 4th and goal play. Lost in that red zone stand was Davis stuffing Colts running back Frank Gore on 1st and goal from the Pittsburgh 2-yard-line.

The Steelers now have five regular season games left and so that’s a lot of time for the team’s three defensive rookie draft picks to develop even more and hopefully that process occurs along with much-needed victories.

  • pittfan

    5 games left and we’re walking the razor’s edge on making the playoffs. This season has been disappointing thus far but the rooks have been something of a bright spot. The D has a young nucleus and lets just hope they develop into a league leading unit to go with what SHOULD BE a league leading O.


    It’s been a weird season starting strong, then losing 4 straight games, now rebounding with 2 wins with a squad many felt would be no worse than a 2 seed. Giving how the injuries have played out, it’s been more frustrating than disappointing to me, but I get it.

    The positive is I don’t think this team has played it’s best football yet on both sides of the ball…the youngsters are gaining experience and confidence…we’ll have to see how the final 5 unfold, but the
    future is looking brighter for the Steeler DEF.

  • budabar

    So little action heading burns way is that a testament to how he’s playing or the way cockrell and gay are playing

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    What is fun to think about is the exponential jump they should make going into year 2. Not including the vets, the D is young. 2 players on the DL with less than 3 yrs, the LB’s with Bud and Shazier and The DB’s with Artie, Davis, Ross, Senequez (if he gets healthy) and even Gilbert if he gets head together. The unit has amassed a lot of talent. Get another pass rusher and this could be a dominant unit for the next 4-5 years. Couple this with an O that has Ben, Bell, AB and an OL that looks to be set. Time to add some jewelry!

  • RickM

    I know they makes mistakes, but right now you certainly have to give Colbert and Tomlin credit for their Top 3 picks. I know it’s still too early to grade these guys. But, it would be great if we’ve added three quality young starters in one draft.

  • Dorian James

    Agreed,I personally have been very critical of the coaches and FO about their drafting

  • RickM

    Yeah, it’s important to give them their due when it’s deserved. I know it’s way too early to make final judgements on Burns, Davis and Hargrave. But there’s definite reason for optimism.


    Pretty impressive transition for the kids. Hargrave was a monster in that Colts game. Really excited but not sure how deep we can go with all these rookies,
    may be setting up nicely for next year.

  • Vic

    Tomlin should be concerned about drafting an olb that can rush the QB

  • William Weaver

    Don’t forget future hall of fame linebacker Dirty Red!! Lol

  • RSteelerz

    If the team can get a playoff birth with their health staying intact, I think the defense would be in better shape than last year.

    I know we lost Heyward and it sucks but with Harrison being placed back in the lineup it makes him the established field general on the field. That didn’t happen last year.

    Butler mixing things up with the front 7 and making Timmons an occassional edge rusher also helps. Dupree will only get better and won’t run out of gas like last year.

    On the back end, here’s hoping that the safety play has turned the corner with Mitchell and Davis.

    Ross needs to get back to playing sound like he was in the beginning of the season. Let’s hope he does. You also can already see that the matchup problems that used to exist against our corners has declined significantly with Burns in the lineup.

    His speed, size and playmaking ability has made them more match up much better against big, atheletic and fast receivers. Gilbert can also be installed in the lineup when trying to exploit the Steelers with bigger receivers.

    The defense in my opinion is more equipped this year to do enough for the offense if we were to make a playoff run.

  • Frank


  • Orlysteel

    He’s been trying Vic.

  • Michael James

    We definitely have very talented defensive nucleus. And all of those players are still young: Tuitt (23), Heyward (27), Hargrave (23), Shazier (24), Dupree (23), Burns (21), Davis (23)
    After adding another young pass-rusher and slot corner we’ll be in a excellent good spot talent-wise (another ILB wouldn’t be bad, too).

  • NinjaMountie

    These guys were catching a lot of flack on here early in the season, not totally undeserved at times. Some didn’t think they could learn or grow as players. I’m happy to see these guys stepping up in positive ways. Gives me hope for the future of the defense.

  • Steeler-Drew

    Agree, not only should he get credit for the picks thus far but also for speeding up their progress.

  • Steven Vincent

    Well we have seen occasional solid plays from Burns and Davis, but on almost any other team they would still be 2nd or 3rd stringers. The last two games against very poor teams depleted by injury are no measure. Before that our secondary was getting totally torched consistently. I am not optimistic about how the rookies are going to look against real pro unit like Eli and his receivers. Have we already forgotten about the Dallas fiasco?

    Javon does show a lot of promise and is playing at a consistently higher level, filling in some pretty big shoes too.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Michael –

    I pretty much agree with everything you said. Except two minor differences. I believe we need to add TWO edge rushers. And a safety instead of a slot CB.

    I thank Jarvis Jones for his service, but I’ve seen all that I need to see. It’s time for him to go. I think Moats is a career back up quality veteran. And I doubt James Harrison comes back next year. That basically leaves us with Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo, with no significant depth behind them.

    With the amount of money we will be spending on extensions for Brown + Bell + Tuitt + Villanueva, I don’t think we’ll have enough space to bring in a free agent edge rusher (which is what I would prefer) so that leaves the draft as our only option. And our “miss” rate has been fairly high at that position lately. I would not hesitate at all to draft two edge rushers in Rounds 1 and 2 (hoping one of them works out) (and using the other in rotation).

    With Burns + Gilbert + Cockrell + Golson we should be okay at CB.

    With Shazier + Williams + Matakevich we should be okay at ILB.

    With Heyward + Tuitt + Hargrave we should be good at DT.

    The other need is a hybrid safety. I am happy with Davis, but with the amount of sub packages we run, a 3rd safety is almost a starter. We could really use another versatile DB who can run/tackle/cover.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Well Steven, I guess you and Mike Tomlin disagree about our young DB’s then.

    I don’t think Burns or Davis are pro bowlers by any means, but I think their potential is much higher than you are giving them credit for. Just my opinion.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Usually getting something out of the 1st and 2nd round guys in their rookie year is a plus but you’re correct it’s early but I like what i’ve seen so far. Let’s hope all these guys continue to grow with the experience their getting. I mean not only are these guys getting snaps they’re all starters!

  • Douglas Andrews

    I still think Bud is going to be a really good OLB once he really learns his position. That injury bug really set his growth back but he’s shown me enough to think he can really become a player also.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I’m waiting for the inevitable Burns pick six! Then I will say Youngin’ has arrived! That guy Hargrave tho? Steal of the draft!

  • Nicholas Allen Cotner

    Very excited about these young bucks

  • Steeler4l1f3

    Excellent analysis. Overall, I agree with your assessment. I also think we need two edge rushers to help as transition to a 4 man front. I think we should go traditional 4-3 end that has the length and power to set the edge and one hybrid OLitB that can play in coverage as needed.

    As for Safety i

  • SilverSteel

    We have another DB like that. His name is Gilbert and we wont let him get any reps even though Tomlin says he is ready to play and he is our #4.

  • SilverSteel

    Hargrave was excellent value. I wish we would have taken Dak Prescott instead of an Olineman though in the 4th. Damn, makes me bummed every time I think about it. We could have had a QB to learn and backup Ben and then play for the next 10-12 years.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Yeah starters that’s also making a little noise here and there with big plays they also gave up big plays but that’s the learning phase the future is definitely looking bright for us

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Mayock said that golson was the best slot dB that he’s seen in yrs coming out of the draft so hopefully he stays healthy and pan out

  • walter

    yea too bad we were missing draft picks that year. but there is one other guy that looked good that OT guy, 6th round i think.

  • walter

    i thought cockrell was a FA

  • Michael James

    Spot on! You’re right, we should really look for two impact pass-rushers. One of them should be our first-round pick, the other one either another high draft pick or a quality free agent. I also like the idea of an hybrid safety. The one thing I’m a bit torn on is the ILB position. Shazier is a stud (when healthy) and Williams a solid player, but I think Matakevich is just a backup (he has great football IQ, but is just not athletic enough). Adding another athletic ILB later in the draft could be a good idea.

  • mokhkw

    Unfortunately when it comes to FA in 2017 there are literally zero pass rushers available that are under 30 so it has to be the Draft.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I think we should have too, but with limited picks it was hard. I think if we had an extra pick it could have been done.

  • dany

    eh, so did the other 31 teams. Prescott is playing better than he did in college, not even his fans could have expected that

  • Jonas

    Sure, but the Steelers should not plan with him. If he can show up and contribute next September, that’s a bonus.