Ryan Shazier has little time left to get caught up
By Neal Coolong on Jul 22 2014
Highly drafted rookies have the widest gap between realistic expectations and viable preparation to succeed. Steelers rookie LB Ryan Shazier will likely end up winning the starting position but he has to play well above his level of experience if the Steelers are to find their defensive dominance again.
Being taken with a high draft pick in the first round is a double-edged sword.
Usually a player shows outstanding enough talent their mark is just waiting to be made on the NFL. They will likely, barring injury, experience a long and fruitful NFL career.
At the same time, there's a reason the team selected that player, and it usually is not related to him being the one piece they're missing to bring the franchise from sub-.500 to the Super Bowl. Talent around that player isn't all that great, and the steep and painful lessons in becoming an NFL player are usually what wins out in that player's first season.
The Steelers are caught in the middle of a tale of two rookie linebackers. There's Vince Williams in 2013; a player taken in the sixth round and looked to be more of a developmental player early in his career, if he made the roster. This time last year, no one was talking about the questions surrounding starting a rookie opposite Lawrence Timmons.
That's different this year. The Steelers, so compelled by the athleticism of Ryan Shazier they used their first round pick, 15th overall, on the linebacker out of Ohio State. Certainly a better athlete than Williams, perhaps a better player in the early stages of their careers. Still the same level of pro experience as Williams did on this date in 2013.
It's rare to find Patrick Willis or Kiko Alonso; linebackers who step in the starting lineup on Day 1 and dominate. It's not impossible either, however. Willis was the 11th overall pick in the 2007 draft, and Alonso was taken in the second round. Not that a draft spot ultimately matters, but it's not as if the Steelers are unaware of what to look for in their linebackers.
Still, the draft is more about the future than the right-now. Williams was pushed into service last year, becoming the first rookie inside linebacker to start for Dick LeBeau's defense he returned to the franchise in 2004. It isn't exactly ideal, but even if it isn't Shazier, the Steelers' options aren't exactly stacked. Williams showed enough liability where he's certainly not a three-down option. Sean Spence is technically a third-year player but has as much regular season experience as Shazier does.
While Shazier is no doubt looking forward to the challenge ahead of him, he's still put in a pretty tough spot, from one line of thinking. He doesn't have a veteran in place to really compete with him for the spot. Timmons is locked in at his position and will serve as a mentor but isn't competing with Shazier. Williams can't compete with Shazier's athletic ability. Spence isn't any more experienced and is coming off a significant knee injury.
So Shazier enters camp largely as the default starting inside linebacker opposite Timmons. That won't exactly endear his teammates. Not his fault, certainly, but he still has a lot to learn and really not a whole lot of time left to learn it.
The countdown clock flips from time remaining until the team's first practice (four days) to the countdown until Week 1 vs. Cleveland (47 days).
Shazier stars in backs on backers
Ray Fittipaldo about 18 hours ago
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin sent the message loud and clear Friday afternoon when his players reported for training camp. “See you Monday” was his response when he was asked if there would be live tackling on the first day of padded practices.
An hour into the first of those padded practices Monday afternoon, there was a spirited backs on backers drill followed by team drills that included live tackling.
“We’ll put them in some challenging situations, see how they respond,” Tomlin said after practice. “From an intensity standpoint, I give each side a thumbs-up in terms of rising to the occasion that was presented.”
The star of the backs on backers drill was rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier. In the drills, linebackers go one-on-one against running backs and tight ends trying to get to the quarterback.
Shazier twice beat veteran running back LeGarrette Blount on speed moves, making Blount look bad. On the third rush, Blount stepped up and popped Shazier before he could make a move.
Still, two out of three isn’t bad for a rookie going up against a season veteran.
“He did some nice things,” Tomlin said. “He was elusive. He was playing to his assets with his speed and agility.”
Blount gave the rookie his due.
“He got my attention on the first couple,” Blount said. “As a football player it’s in your nature not to lose. I just have to make sure I get him before he gets off the line. He’s a quick kid. Obviously, I’m not as quick as he is so I have to get to him before he makes his move. He’s really quick, he’s really fast. He makes plays.”
Linebackers coach Joey Porter spent the drill instructing the linebackers in an entertaining fashion. He was exhorted Shazier to use his speed to his advantage.
“He could be 10 miles away and you’d hear coach Porter. He just says use what you know best.”
tunch had some really nice things to say about shazier just now on 970 espn in pittsburgh.
really liking the direction of this defense right now
Hell I remember Dan Krieder burying Ray Ray on running plays. And he was no where near 330.
Originally Posted by Slapstick
That is what our running game misses.
Column: Why Pittsburgh will love Ryan Shazier 53
By Dejan Kovacevic
July 28, 2014
LATROBE, Pa. — “I wasn’t surprised at all,” Ryan Shazier insisted to reporters Monday when asked about the almost barbaric punishment being doled out in the Steelers’ annual backs-on-backers drill. “We’re a hard-nosed team. We’re in Pittsburgh, Ohio.”
He caught himself immediately and laughed a bit.
“Pittsburgh, P-A. I’m sorry about that. Went to Ohio State. We’re from Pittsburgh, P-A. We play dirty.”
Caught himself again.
“Not dirty, but hard-nosed.”
Nah, that last one was fine, actually. And the other one wasn’t all bad, either. The way Shazier competed Monday — in backs-and-backers and all that followed on the first day in full pads — I’m guessing no one would care which Pittsburgh he’s from, so long as it’s the only one in the world ending with an H.
I’ll say it yet again, Nation: You will love this kid.
There was skepticism, sure, when Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert drafted him 15th overall in June. Not so much because of Shazier’s pedigree — as Tomlin deftly put it that same night, a linebacker with a stature of 6 feet 1, 237 pounds who can run the 40 in 4.2 seconds is “rare air” — but because of positioning. Everyone wanted a wide receiver. I’m no different. I heard the names, saw the highlights and picture a bookend for Antonio Brown that would have launched the Steelers’ offense to some other level.
Well, let’s all get over it collectively. Because, as it turns out, Ryan Dean Shazier, son of a Fort Lauderdale ordained minister, might just be the right blessing at the right time.
Tomlin habitually downplays drama, and yet lives for it in the right moments. He opened backs-on-backers by aligning LeGarrette Blount vs. Lawrence Timmons, just to get everyone’s attention. It worked. LB and LT collided with such force it might well have echoed off Saint Benedict Hall, high atop the hill overlooking Chuck Noll Field. The players whooped it up. The coaching staff barked encouragement. And Joey Porter, performing the Bizarro dual role of stand-in QB and psycho game-show host, bellowed out, “I see ya 9-4! I see ya!”
Tight end Rob Blanchflower and linebacker Vince Williams were the next to draw the hoots and hollers. Then little fireplug back Jordan Hall by leveling linebacker Terence Garvin. But none of it seemed enough to suit Tomlin, who mostly stood silently while Porter held bombastic court.
That’s when Tomlin lined up Blount and Shazier. The rest of us in the small circle near the south end zone — coaches, players and yeah, media, too, because drama doesn’t count if it isn’t witnessed — might not have known this would be the head coach’s marquee, but here’s betting he did.
First go-round was merely an opening act: Shazier, with one swift step and a strong fling of his left arm, blew through Blount and wrapped up Porter.
I would say that this excited Porter, but I could also tell you that the Browns will finish last.
“That’s it! That’s what I want! Speed is your asset! Use it! Speed is your asset!”
Tomlin wanted more.
Second go-round: Shazier used another burst, this time to Blount’s other side and was on Porter almost as quickly.
The players — except the other backers, of course — roared for this as if that had been Joe Flacco in Shazier’s grasp.
No way Tomlin would leave it at that, though. So he set up the same pins.
But before the snap, Porter had this to say in Shazier’s direction: “He don’t believe in you! He don’t believe! He don’t believe it’s real.”
Blount, he meant. Blount didn’t believe in Shazier. But whether or not that was the case soon proved moot.
Third go-round: BOOM!
If LB and LT were felt up the hill, then this collision had to have reverberated off the visible Laurel Highlands mountains several miles away. It was a seismic, almost sickening crash of helmets, pads, body parts and presumably senses.
Not even a boxing ref could state definitively who get the better of the actual moment, but it was instantly clear who got the worst of it when Shazier spun to his left, had a split-second awful glaze in his eyes, then collected himself before returning to his group.
There was no cheering this time, other than a couple backs giving it up for Blount. And really, no one needed to elaborate on what had just happened: The vet took his blows, then welcomed the rookie to the NFL.
“Obviously, I’m not as quick as he is,” Blount would say later. “He got my attention on the first couple. As a competitor, it’s in your nature to not lose. So I kept on going.”
And Shazier’s reaction?
“I knew he was going to bring a punch on that last one.”
Football diehards will remember this one, at least as best that’s possible without video being allowed. These are matchups, winners and losers alike, that live on in future camp lore.
To an extent, they’ll also be remembered by the men who matter most. At least if you took it seriously when Tomlin gushed like a kid on Christmas Eve the day before the pads were donned: “It’s not football-like. It’s football. I’m always excited about who ascends in those situations and who shrinks in those situations.”
Shrinks, the man said.
“That’s just the reality of it,” Tomlin continued to complete the thought.
Be that as it may, the fullest context must include actual football. And, in as close to that as we witnessed Monday, Shazier did anything but shrink.
On one play from scrimmage later in the session— again, full contact, 11 to a side — that fireplug Hall took a handoff and cut around left tackle with exceptional momentum. And once a healthy entourage of blockers arrived, it appeared he’d be on the way to a big gain.
Until he wasn’t.
The pack suddenly, violently began to move back with a collective flail. It wasn’t immediately clear why, only that it was. Back two yards, then three, then finally with poor Hall crushed under a mess of bodies.
As the players arose, one was left with his arms wrapped around Hall well after the tackle, gripping the back like a life preserver in shark-infested waters.
“I see ya 5-0!” came the shout from nearby. It was Porter, of course.
We’ll all see on the seventh of September.
Yea, but Shazier actually made the tackle.
Originally Posted by skyhawk
Ed Bouchette @EdBouchette:
“@Wittman7: @EdBouchette barring injury is there any way Shazier doesn't start?” ... No
Scott Brown @ScottBrown_ESPN ·
Nice play Ryan Shazier. Almost picked off short pass over the middle from Ben to Spaeth. Arrived at same time as the ball.