After participating in practice, it sounds like rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier is on track to start Monday night against the Houston Texans.
SteelDad talked about the struggles by the rookie class so far this year, and Shazier’s avoided criticism for the most part because he hasn’t played much yet due to injury.
Shazier has taken some lumps because his strengths were supposed to be his athleticism and ability in coverage… but he was abused by tight ends in pre-season.
That being said I’m not concerned at all. Shazier is starting in a complex system, with very little talent around him, as a rookie… Something pretty much unprecedented for a Steelers player.
Here’s where the problem comes in for Shazier. Some people thought that the Steelers should’ve gone with Alabama linebacker CJ Mosley, so the comparisons to him will be there for their entire careers.
The bigger issue, I think, for Shazier will be comparisons to rookies at positions that the Steelers are really hurting at, and failed to address in the draft.
I felt all off-season that Darquenze Dennard wasn’t a good fit for the Steelers and that they don’t value cornerbacks highly enough to select one in the first round. However, even I had him in my final Steelers mock draft because everything seemed to be pointing in that direction.
Dennard hasn’t played much for the Bengals, but Tomlin would probably feel much more comfortable giving Cortez Allen the hook if he had a talented first round pick stepping in, instead of Brice McCain.
The Chargers selected Jason Verrett one pick after Dennard. Verrett has played a lot for the Chargers and by most accounts has looked like a 5 year veteran at the position. There were questions about size, but he’s making plays against receivers 6 inches taller than he is.
There were some rumors floating around before the draft that the Steelers were in love with the jumbo-sized receiver out of Florida State, Kelvin Benjamin. I personally was a huge fan of Benjamin, but also realized he had a high potential to bust, and that’s not something this Steelers team could overcome right now.
Benjamin has shown he hasn’t completely figured out his drop issues yet, but he’s currently on pace for a 1100 yard, 11 touchdown season. He’s been particularly impressive at plucking the ball in the red-zone.
That type of receiver is really what this Steelers offense is desperately lacking right now.
Obviously, some of these types of things are hindsight being 20/20. The Steelers didn’t plan for Ike Taylor to break his arm, and they probably expected more from Markus Wheaton and Lance Moore.
However, I think that many people felt at the time (myself included) that Shazier may have been a luxury pick considering they already had Sean Spence and Vince Williams at the position. Spence has done a fine job while Shazier was out.
Hopefully Shazier is a mentally tough kid, because the worse this season the gets the more he’s going to hear about how the Steelers screwed up by picking him.