Steelers rookie DBs expect Tom Brady to pick on them

While the Pittsburgh Steelers' three "Bs" on offense swallow all the tv attention, it's been the defense that has been the catalyst for the current nine-game win streak.

Over the past nine games Pittsburgh has allowed 16.6 points per game, 287.4 yards per game and 31 sacks. In those nine week's Keith Butler's defense ranks first in the NFL in sacks per game, second in yards per play allowed, second in passing yards per game, third in total yards per game and third in points per game.

Thank the youngsters for the turnaround.

Bud Dupree's return in Week 11 helped spark a fierce pass rush after Pittsburgh curtailed the rotation. The play of two rookies in the secondary, first-round pick Artie Burns and second-round pick Sean Davis, have solidified a back end that was often subject to breakdowns in coverage and picked apart by good quarterbacks.

Burns' play escalated as the season wore on, finally earning a starting gig in Week 9. His insertion full-time on the outside allowed William Gay to shift to the nickel role. The reshuffling led to a more cohesive corner group that slotted each player in a spot best suited to his skill set. Davis took over the starting gig in Week 11 and solidified the back end that had ranked 28th in pass yards per game allowed from Week 1-10.

It's no shock to anyone who watched the game film that the rookies becoming full-time starters helped turn around the Steelers' defense.

Yet, both Burns and Davis are aware that their youth could make them a target for Tom Brady, who loves to pick on rookies.

"Yeah, I'm aware of that," Davis said, via ESPN's Katherine Terrell. "I'm aware of that every time I step out on the field on Sundays. We have less experience, and they might try us, but I feel like we've been playing well, that we've been making plays, so you can go on and keep trying me."

Added Burns: "That's what he does. He's a savvy vet. That's what savvy vets do; they go after rookies. I'm prepared for it. It's a challenge. I've just got to be ready."

In Week 7 versus the Steelers, Brady went 19-of-26 for 222 yards and two touchdowns for a 93.0 QB rating. The Patriots scored 27 points that day.

The loss came before Tomlin began trusting his rookies full time. Davis played just three defensive snaps versus New England. Burns played 33 (60 percent). If healthy, both will be on the field every down for Pittsburgh.

Tomlin said this week that he's "very confident" in the two rookies after what they've shown in two previous postseason games.

"I haven't felt like a rookie in a long time," Davis said. "I can't play like one now. I definitely can't turn into a rookie now."