Steelers could face Patriots with two new starters on defense
Based on the participation report in practice Thursday, it’s looking more likely the Pittsburgh Steelers will open the season against the New England Patriots with a rookie inside linebacker and a free safety also playing in his first NFL game.
Sean Davis did not practice again because of an ankle injury, increasing the likelihood that first-year player Kameron Kelly will make his NFL debut at free safety. Inside linebacker Mark Barron also did not practice because of a “coach’s decision.” That provided more reps for rookie first-rounder Devin Bush, who also could start against the Patriots.
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler was asked if having two unproven starters is a problematic way to take a team into Foxborough, Mass., to face the defending Super Bowl champions.
“I don’t think there’s ever a right way to go to Foxborough with the quarterback that (Tom Brady) is,” Butler said. “But we’re not going to shy away from it, either. I’m confident in those guys that they’ll play and do the best they can.”
Butler wouldn’t speculate on how much time Bush will get in the opener. Having a rookie in the middle of the defense provides an inviting target for Brady to exploit, but Butler isn’t concerned about Bush being overmatched.
“He’s going to be all right,” he said. “He’s still a rookie. He respects the game, and as long as he respects the game he’s going to be all right.”
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .