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Mike Tomlin says Steelers drafted Ryan Shazier for a need

Head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert spoke about the newest member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and alluded to the subtle distinction between specific positional needs and overarching unit/team needs.


PITTSBURGH -- Coach Mike Tomlin said the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted for need when they selected inside linebacker Ryan Shazier from Ohio State with the 15th overall pick in the first round during the NFL Draft Thursday.

"What we needed was a defensive playmaker, and he fits the bill in that regard,'' Tomlin said shortly after the Steelers shunned cornerback Darqueze Dennard from Michigan State for Shazier.

"Not only in terms of his skill set, but also what he did on the field. He was a highly productive football player. ... He gets after the quarterback and has made plays in coverage as well. (And) we needed a defensive playmaker.''

While the Steelers appear to have coveted Shazier's talents, the player said he really didn't envision being drafted by the Steelers.

"I saw the area code and knew who it was,'' Shazier said. "I know we had a great visit, but I was surprised. (And) I know that it all starts with the defense, and that's what Pittsburgh is known for. Coach LeBeau is a great coach, and he's been there for a while. So, I can't wait to get things rolling and get back to the old ways (playing Steelers defense).''

The Steelers have Shazier listed at 6-foot-1 and 237 pounds, and he is only 21 years old. He won't be 22 until this season begins, so he has decent size and is really fast. Shazier noted that while the Steelers said he can get bigger, other coaches have told him that his weight is just fine. He also said he was timed as fast as 4.35. Shazier added that he ran a 4.36 at his pro day.

Tomlin said the Steelers will play him at the Mack inside linebacker spot. Lawrence Timmons manned both the Buck and Mack last year after Larry Foote was injured, so Shazier gives the club more options, according Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert.

"His biggest asset, other than his youth, is his speed,'' Colbert said. "This guy can flat-out run. And the thing that really attracts you to him from a defensive standpoint against today's offenses is that as they continue to spread out, you need speed. ... You need speed everywhere to make plays.

"He can make plays laterally, and most were tackles for losses. So, we're super excited that he was there for us. Ryan Shazier was somebody that we valued and valued very highly. We're well aware of who we have on our team, but when we can add a player of quality, it will override the need every time."

Other inside linebackers on the Steelers roster are Vince Williams, a sixth-round pick who started 11 of 15 games as a rookie last season, and Sean Spence, a third-rounder in 2012. However, Spence hasn't played for two seasons due to a severe knee injury during the final preseason game as a rookie.

"Vince Williams did do a nice job, and we have hope that Sean Spence will come back," Colbert said. "But you can never have enough good players at one position. ... His ability to make plays laterally, in the backfield, that's what you need in today's NFL. (And) this gives (the Steelers) inside rush possibilities with Lawrence, him and Troy (Polamalu)."