Steelers expect rookies to play early

PITTSBURGH – Word is the Pittsburgh Steelers are counting on a couple of this month’s draft picks to start immediately.

That should be interesting.

The Steelers are apparently counting on first round choice Ryan Shazier to start at inside linebacker, and also anticipate using No. 2 pick Stephon Tuitt quite a bit at defensive end.

In the past, we’ve heard (and seen) that it takes players time to grasp the Steelers defense and get playing time. The team was high on last year’s first pick, linebacker Jarvis Jones. But his impact was minimal.

Cam Heyward finally nailed down a starting spot at end and played well – in his third season with the Steelers.

Jones and Heyward are both smart players, and neither has any problems with effort. The transition from college to Dick LeBeau’s multi-faceted defense is a challenge for even the best players.

Yet the Steelers are apparently counting on two rookies to come in and contribute immediately.

Some of this is based on need. The salary cap, contract issues and age have caught up on the Steelers defense over the past few seasons. Veterans like Larry Foote and Brett Keisel are no longer viable.

Some of the backups who have been apprenticing have moved on, too.

That accounts for the need to have this year’s draft class to step up.

It will be nice if it happens. The Steelers defense needs an infusion of speed and quickness, especially at linebacker.

But it might not be a good idea to expect it to happen.

Make the call

There was an interesting issue over an official scoring call in a near no-hitter by Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers.

He gave up a pop fly that fell between the second baseman and right fielder. Either one of them could have caught the ball. Neither one did.

The official scorer ruled an error rather than letting that stand as the first hit of the game.

It’s rarely called that way, but it was the correct ruling. Unfortunately, MLB later revsered the call.

Generally a ball that falls like that because of a miscommunication goes for a hit. Invariably, a broadcaster will call it a “gift.”

That’s exactly what it is. The pitcher gets penalized when he did his job. The fielders didn’t.

Charley Feeney was the best official scorer I ever saw. His standard was simple. When the ball was hit, he asked himself if it was an out. If he felt it was and no out was recorded, it had to be an error.

The late Dick Young was an influential columnist in New York for decades. He used to advocate the adoption of a team error category for situations like the one outlined above. It never got anywhere, but it’s time to revive that idea.

Mehno can be reached at