“Move him to safety,” was often heard as was “he’s a bust.” Those were two of the more common things coming from the mouths of Steelers’ fans when it came to Ryan Shazier and perhaps there was some justification. In two seasons in the NFL, he has struggled to stay healthy.
He’s played in just 21 of 32 possible games in the regular season and the reasons for the absences have ranged from a bad knee to a bad shoulder but then there’s the flip side. When he does play, he seems to consistently make an impact. In the playoffs this season he was in on 20 tackles and forced a huge fumble by Giovani Bernard in the win over Cincinnati.
In essence, Shazier has become an “all or nothing” proposition for the Steelers. So the question becomes whether or not Shazier is in it for the long-haul with the Steelers. Common sense tells us they feel good about him especially after a good postseason but if they don’t, then how does that impact what the Steelers do this offseason?
Lawrence Timmons is likely to either get an extension or get cut. His cap number is huge and his deal can’t be re-structured any further. The decision on him could impact Shazier. We can’t forget that Sean Spence is an unrestricted free agent as well and he’s played pretty well after coming back from a devastating knee injury. He’s likely to remain a reserve in Pittsburgh but then again who knows?
I’m of the mind that regardless of what the Steelers do schematically (there’s always talk of the 4-3), Shazier is in the plans for the foreseeable future but rest assured it won’t be at safety. He will stay at linebacker where he can use his speed to make plays both against the run and the pass. The Shazier we need to see in 2016 is the one that finished the 2015 season as the opposed to the one who spent time on the sideline in street clothes.