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Steelers' Mike Tomlin isn't pressing in evaluation of retooled defense

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin seems perfectly content to let the offseason changes to his defense take shape at a natural pace.

When asked about the confidence and continuity of a group that moved on from several long-standing staples after the 2014 season, Tomlin said bluntly, "I'm not looking for confidence."

"I'm just rolling the ball out and watching these guys work. Time will tell the story," Tomlin said.

If they haven't already, the Steelers must take a hard look at what they have defensively, especially in the secondary. Perhaps the staff will do so privately after this week's minicamp. Gleaning valuable insight from offseason workouts is challenging because there's no hitting.

So Tomlin is setting a tone that now is not the time for pointed public assessments. Training camp could -- and should -- be that time.

The Steelers lose a combined 37 years of experience with the departures of Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Brett Keisel.

The timing seemed right to launch a new era of Steelers defense. Without a few breakout stars, the defense will be mostly a collection of decent-to-good players, not overly spectacular. Defensive end Cameron Heyward seems poised for a big season. Linebacker Lawrence Timmons is coming off his first Pro Bowl. The secondary's two-deep has less than 200 starts.

The Steelers need at least one of their recent first-round linebackers -- Ryan Shazier, Jarvis Jones, Bud Dupree -- to explode. Heyward said he's noticed the defense will emphasize creating one-on-one matchups at all positions, especially the defensive line, as opposed to in the past when linemen were often asked to clog lanes and take up blockers.

For the secondary, the offseason has been about finding a rhythm with each other.

"[Togetherness] is what we've adopted, and that's what we feel," safety Mike Mitchell said.

Corner Antwon Blake is less cautious in his goals for the defense than Tomlin. If Blake validates his goal to lock down a corner spot, moving veteran William Gay to the slot, where he's a natural fit, then this could work.

"No mistakes, get turnovers, just ball out," Blake said.