As a Steelers fan I am not used to the great potential for contribution from new additions, which has become apparent this offseason.
Usually, we have a few under-the-radar free agent additions and some nice draft picks that will require a year or two on the team before any serious contributions are made. 2014 seems to be an entirely new animal.
The front office has added a lot in free agency and through the draft. They quickly went out and got their man, Mike Mitchell, when free agency began and he looks to add some serious speed and versatility to a position that lacked those things last year.
The team also appeased long-lived requests for a tall receiver when they nabbed Martavis Bryant in the fourth round. The flashy Dri Archer adds a new dimension to the offense and sun blotters Cam Thomas and Stephon Tuitt should help answer some questions on the defensive line.
But the cream will rise to the top. Ryan Shazier won’t actually have to do much rising to the top, as he was the team’s first round pick. He’ll impress nonetheless. Of all the additions, Shazier has the best combination of opportunity and talent.
Linebackers coach, Keith Butler, has already indicated that Shazier is exactly what they thought he would be when the team drafted him in the first round of the draft in May. Shazier has a high football IQ and off-the-charts athleticism. More than that the Steelers will likely be forced to play the rookie—he is already better than any other option.
The linebackers are instantly better with Shazier on the field, and if the addition of Thomas and Tuitt can help Cam Heyward and Steve Mclendon keep the ‘backers clean, they’ll wreak havoc.
Shazier also makes the secondary better. With his ability to close and cover, Shazier will allow for more options on third downs and in sub packages, meaning that Troy Polamalu will not have to resort to playing linebacker for a significant amount of snaps.
There have been a lot of additions this year, and there are more opportunities on the depth chart to go along with them. There will be quite a different team taking the field at Heinz this year. Positive or negative all of these additions will have an impact. Look for Shazier’s to be very positive.