Linebackers continue trimming down, Steelers Ryan Shazier an example of that trend

Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Spor

It used to be the 250-pound linebacker vs. the equal weight fullback. Now, the lighter, athletic linebackers are being employed to counter four receiver offenses. Mike Tomlin's Run and Hit Linebackers are becoming the standard.

Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier played his last year at Ohio State at 225 pounds. He bulked up top 237 in the offseason, preparing for the draft and subsequently, his first year in the NFL. He went in the opposite direction the past few months as future Hall of Fame LB Ray Lewis did in 2012. Lewis typically played around 250 pounds throughout the majority of his career, but dropped down to 235 for the 2012 season - one that ultimately resulted in a Super Bowl championship for the Ravens.

"The game is changing," Lewis told reporters at the time. "The game isn't any more (about) 250-, 260-pound fullbacks," he said. "You don't have the offenses running the ball 25-, 30-, 40-plus times. Passing is just happening more."

The Steelers have surrendered more completions in each of the last three seasons - 289 in 2011, 299 in 2012 and 329 in 2013. While none of those figures put them outside the top 10 for least completions allowed in the NFL, the 329 total last year would have been the 14th most in the NFL in 2011, and 10th most in the NFL in 2008.

The answer isn't categorically the complete shift to lighter linebackers, but the Steelers clearly see a different direction for the position. The same year Lewis was mixing in a few salads to his menu, the Steelers drafted Sean Spence in the third round. Spence measured in at 5-foot-11, 231 pounds - which is a big safety in today's game, and could have passed for a small defensive end a generation ago. They added Terence Garvin as an undrafted free agent last year, he weighed in at 221 pounds.

When rookie Vince Williams (241 pounds) wasn't cutting it, the Steelers moved strong safety Troy Polamalu (220 pounds) into the inside linebacker position on passing downs. Garvin would move into that role toward the end of the season.

Lewis vs. James Farrior as a match-up in the Steelers vs. Ravens rivalry is over. Perhaps Shazier vs. C.J. Mosley will replace it to some degree. Mosley weighed in at 234 at the Combine in February. It would seem both teams subscribe to the lighter theory.

They'll test it out against each other in Week 2 in Baltimore.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Behind the Steel Curtain

You must be a member of Behind the Steel Curtain to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Behind the Steel Curtain. You should read them.

Join Behind the Steel Curtain

You must be a member of Behind the Steel Curtain to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Behind the Steel Curtain. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker