New Pittsburgh Steelers Linebacker Ryan Shazier’s ascent to Sunday starter could be much quicker than that of Lawrence Timmons.
Seven years ago in Mike Tomlin’s first draft, the Steelers selected a speedy, instinctual linebacker with the 15th pick of the NFL Draft. Last night, they did the same thing. Like Timmons in 2007, it’s not crystal clear where Shazier fits best in the Steelers’ 3-4 front, but the path could be easier for the 2014 pick.
One instant impact Shazier could have is in a sub-package that saw a lot of use in 2013. Last year, we saw Troy Polamalu stepping into the box in a linebacker position and Vince Williams coming off the field. Shazier’s skill set fits such situations well. He has excellent pursuit and vision. There is no question concerning his athleticism as he ran a sub 4.4 forty yard dash prior to the draft.
Typically, Steeler’s defenders have a hard time seeing the field as rookies. The incumbent starter next to Timmons is Vince Williams, so Shazier will be provided with every opportunity to win that job. Williams is a serviceable two-down backer that becomes a liability in coverage. Shazier’s abilities should shine on third downs. As opposed to facing veterans entrenched at the inside spots, as were Larry Foote and James Farrior in 2007, Shazier merely has to outshine a 2013 6th round pick who ended up being a pleasantly surprising stop-gap.
Once he does find a regular spot on that 3-4 defense, as every first round pick must, he should be inside next to Timmons. Dick LeBeau is licking his chops at the thought of the fire zone blitzes that he could run with such athleticism and rush ability on the inside.
Another place that Shazier will shine is in kick coverage. There is no doubt that he should be a day one contributor in every aspect of special teams. It will be easy for Shazier to become the team’s leading tackler on special teams.
The Steelers must love the idea of Lawrence Timmons being the elder statesman of a young athletic group of Jarvis Jones, Jason Worilds, and Ryan Shazier.