In the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin shocked much of Steeler nation when they selected uber-athletic linebacker Ryan Shazier out of The Ohio State University.
Prior to the draft I had actually told a friend and Buckeyes fan I’d love for Shazier to wear the black and gold but didn’t see a huge need at the position with Lawrence Timmons, Vince Williams, and Sean Spence on the roster.
When the pick was announced, I was sort of confused by the selection… but being an Ohio native I’d see plenty of Shazier flying around the field and while I wasn’t sure about the fit, I liked that I felt we got an extremely talented player.
Some said he was a reach, but word came out after the draft that a few teams (namely Dallas and Green Bay) had Shazier very high on their boards. Some NFC scouts saw Shazier as the X-Factor that could neutralize two of the best young running Quarterbacks in the NFC, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.
Early in camp this year, when I hard that Mike Tomlin was installing his Cover-2 defense, suddenly the Shazier pick completely made sense, and last night it appeared that it’s all coming together for the second year player.
When Ryan was at his best in college, he was a highly instinctual player that covered a ton of ground and made plays all over the field for the Buckeyes. That was the player I saw on Sunday night in the Steelers’ first pre-season game.
Early in the game, the Vikings decided to go for it on a 4th and 1. Shazier made an excellent play by just blasting the fullback and completely taking the lead blocker out of the play, allowing his Steelers teammates to clean up and stop the play well short of a 1st down. On that play there was no hesitation, just aggression… and I loved it.
Shazier also narrowly missed an interception where he laid out for the ball. Again, I didn’t see the hesitation from him that we saw last season.
The second year linebacker isn’t finished yet. He still needs to learn to take on, and shed blockers better instead of just trying to run by and duck them.
After an injury plagued rookie season, Ryan Shazier looks like he’s grown a lot in a short amount of time, and I’d expect his play to only get better as he gets live game reps under his belt as the season progresses.