It’s Been 15 Years Since A Defensive Rookie Opened A Season As Starter For Dick LeBeau

It’s been well documented that Pittsburgh Steelers rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier will be the first defensive draft pick to open a season as a starter since Kendrell Bell last did it in 2001 should he be on the field come Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns.

Should Shazier indeed manage to pull off that feat, he should also become the Steelers first defensive draft pick to start for Dick LeBeau in all of the years that he’s been the defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh.

With the above noted, I was curious to know how many rookie draft picks started in Week 1 when LeBeau was calling the shots on defense during all of his years with the Cincinnati Bengals and surprisingly, that list is longer than I thought it would be.

According to my research, Emanuel King was the first draft pick to start in Week 1 for LeBeau in 1985. King was drafted by the Bengals in the first-round (25th overall) of the 1985 NFL Draft and started the first game that season against the Seattle Seahawks. I wonder if LeBeau remembers that. Somebody should ask him.

The very next season (1986), it looks like LeBeau had two rookie draft picks start Week 1 as it appears as though cornerback Lewis Billups and safety David Fulcher both got the call against the Kansas City Chiefs. Remember Fulcher? I know LeBeau sure does.

I’m not going to bore you with the details past there, but my research shows that 11 Bengals draft picks played in Week 1 of their rookie seasons during LeBeau’s years in Cincinnati as a defensive coordinator.

If Shazier manages to pull this off, I believe he’ll be the first defensive draft pick to start in Week 1 for LeBeau since cornerback Charles Fisher did it in 1999. Shazier had just celebrated his sixth birthday when that happened.

1985 1 25 Emanuel King ROLB
1986 2 38 Lewis Billups RCB
1986 3 78 David Fulcher SS
1987 2 49 Eric Thomas LCB
1990 1 12 James Francis ROLB
1991 1 18 Alfred Williams ROLB
1991 2 52 Lamar Rogers LDE
1997 1 14 Reinard Wilson ROLB
1998 1 13 Takeo Spikes RILB
1998 2 43 Artrell Hawkins RCB
1999 2 33 Charles Fisher LCB
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