The Steelers' 2013 draft class will soon discover something that few others have had in their rookie years with them: Opportunity.

Jobs are plentiful after an 8-8 season and because of many veteran defections either forced or voluntary since it ended.

For the first time in a long time, their top two or even three draft choices could become rookie starters. The previous rookie to do that was center Maurkice Pouncey in 2010, although David DeCastro was installed to take over at right guard in 2012 until his preseason injury delayed that move.

It's unusual for the Steelers to have so many openings, a reflection of their success for most of this century. For example, linebacker Lawrence Timmons, their best player on defense in 2012, did not start until his third season after the Steelers drafted him in the first round in 2007. Defensive end Cameron Heyward, their top pick in 2011, still hasn't won a starting job. Jason Worilds, their No. 2 pick in 2010, sat behind two Pro Bowlers his first three seasons.

It looked as though Worilds finally would get his chance to start when the Steelers released James Harrison, opening a position at right outside linebacker. Then along came their first-round draft choice, a ready-made outside linebacker in Georgia's Jarvis Jones.

"I think it's a daunting task for rookies to start in any system and play and perform well," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said while talking about the chances of Jones winning that job. "Obviously it is difficult when you have established veteran players like we have with a lot of continuity. We are not going to close the door on him or anyone else on earning an opportunity, and that is what this is about. This is about people taking advantage of opportunities so he'll be given that."

Worilds enters the final year of his contract, too, so all ties will go to Jones in their competition. Yet like a good linebackers coach, Keith Butler would not concede that.

"We have to be better at linebacker," Butler said. "Jason Worilds should be a lot better than he was last year. Everybody talks about Jarvis coming in and stuff like that and is Jarvis going to start his first year? We've never started a [rookie] linebacker since I've been here."