WR Brown likes Steelers' 'hungry' mindset

May, 30, 2014
May 30
8:00
AM ET
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers looked like a team coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons through the first three organized team activities.

And that is a good thing, Antonio Brown said after the Steelers' final practice of the week.

"You see guys finishing to the end zone, the whole defense running to the ball, everyone coaching each other," the Pro Bowl wide receiver said. "I think we're just a hungry young group that's aspiring to win games. When you've got a young motivated group that everyone bought into what we're trying to do it just speaks highly when you see it on the practice field."

The players aren't the only ones showing a sense of urgency at team headquarters.

Mike Tomlin wasted little time in putting rookie Ryan Shazier atop the depth chart at weakside inside linebacker. The seventh-year coach needed to see the Steelers' first-round pick in just five rookie minicamp practices before making Shazier the early starter alongside Lawrence Timmons.

His teammates have already told Shazier how rare it is for a rookie to open offseason practices as a starter.

"It was amazing to see my name [atop the depth chart]," Shazier said, "but that's not guaranteed. I have to work for everything."

It wasn't too long ago that Shazier would have been working toward playing special teams his first season and some limited snaps. But the Steelers have dramatically turned over their roster in the last couple of years, and there are only five players left from the teams that played in three Super Bowls from 2005-10 and won two of them.

The Steelers no longer have the luxury of bringing along their top draft picks slowly, something defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said after they took Shazier and then Notre Dame defensive end Stephon Tuitt in the second round.

Hearing such talk is one thing. Seeing a rookie running with the first-team defense during the first week of OTAs is quite another.

"This defense is a challenge," 2013 first-round pick Jarvis Jones said. "He's kind of slowed [down] on a couple of play, things that he's not comfortable doing right now but other than that he still runs to the ball, still tagging off on the runners and everything. He's a tremendous athlete."

Shazier is still a long way from winning a starting job -- and he will have to do so after the pads go on at training camp. But the fact that he will be given every opportunity to start the Steelers' regular-season opener is telling of Tomlin's determination to getting the best players on the field regardless of what their birth certificate says.

The urgency to win now also extends to veterans such as Ben Roethlisberger, who said after the Steelers' first offseason practice, "Shoot everyone's young to me now."

"He's sprinting after the plays," Brown said of the Steelers' franchise quarterback, "looking real good, talking out the routes just being the general like he always is."

Scott Brown

ESPN Pittsburgh Steelers reporter

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