Pittsburgh Steelers' second-year linebacker Ryan Shazier had a breakout performance against the San Francisco 49ers at Heinz Field on Sunday. The former first-round draft pick finished the game with 15 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery, helping the defense hold the 49ers' offense to just 18 points.
This was the type of performance General Manager Kevin Colbert and Head Coach Mike Tomlin envisioned they'd be getting out of Shazier when they selected him with the 15th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The speedy linebacker was all over the field, making life miserable for 49ers' quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Carlos Hyde.
The Steelers' defense limited Hyde, who was coming off a 168-yard performance in Week 1, to just 43 yards on 13 carries, and Shazier, a former college teammate of Hyde's at Ohio State, was instrumental in that effort.
"Ryan actually told me, 'Yea we're going to lock in on you,' " Hyde said to Taylor Price of 49ers.com.
Shazier also locked in on Kaepernick, chasing the mobile QB from sideline to sideline almost every time he tried to scramble. Facing a 3rd and 7 from his own 21-yard line midway through the second quarter, Kaepernick tried to elude a rush from defensive end Cameron Heyward and turned right into Shazier, who dropped him for a 17-yard loss.
Shazier lined up next to outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and rushed off the edge on this play, something he did frequently playing under Urban Meyer at Ohio State.
"That's definitely the best game of my career," Shazier told Steelers.com.
Kaepernick is fast, but he's never faced a linebacker as fast as Shazier, who ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at 237-pounds at his pro day. Shazier's pro day also caught the attention of the Green Bay Packers' front office, who planned on taking the linebacker if he fell to the 21st pick.
The Packers were eliminated from the playoffs by the 49ers in 2012 and 2013, and as former BTSC Editor and current Steelers' beat writer for DKonPittsburghSports.com Neal Coolong wrote last August, the Packers felt Shazier could be the answer to neutralizing Kaepernick's scrambling and ability to make throws on the run.
Shazier exited Sunday's game with a shoulder stinger late in the fourth quarter, but all reports are indicating it wasn't a serious injury, and that he should be ready to go in Week 3 versus the St. Louis Rams.