Believe it or not, the Pittsburgh Steelers report to training camp on July 25th, and we are digging up the '32 Scenarios in 32 Days' segment to help us all pass the time. Once a day we will be drafting a potential 2015 season scenario, telling you why it will happen, why it won't and giving you important keys for the scenario to take place.
Scenario: Steelers ILB Ryan Shazier locks down his starting position in 2015.
Why it will happen: Despite an injury-plagued rookie season in 2014, Ryan Shazier is very much the player the Steelers want at the inside linebacker position alongside Lawrence Timmons. As Shazier was the starter form day one last year, he now looks to prove himself as an every down starter, and not a light inside linebacker with speed.
Shazier has the speed and athleticism necessary to play the ILB position in today's NFL. At a time when athletic, pass-catching tight ends are roaming free across the middle of the field, Shazier has the speed to stay with players like Rob Gronkowski. Shazier might be on the light side, but in all reality in athleticism should help mask that in many different ways.
32 scenarios in 32 days: C. Allen returns to form
The Pittsburgh Steelers' secondary was far from special in 2014, and a large part of that was the horrid play of Cortez Allen. Could the Steelers see Allen return to his 2013 form in 2015?
Though some might call him injury-prone after one season, his injury history dating back to his days at Ohio State says otherwise. Shazier never had a long injury history as a Buckeye, and his injuries in 2014 were the fluke variety. If Shazier can stay healthy, there is a good chance he anchors that inside linebacker position for all 16 regular season games as a near every down linebacker.
Why it won't happen: Despite his injury history in college, or lack thereof, the fact Shazier was seemingly caught in the middle of friendly fire in 2014 is disturbing. If Shazier is every going to live up to the hype of a first round draft choice, staying on the field is step number one, and after 2014 that isn't a certainty.
Other than his injuries, Shazier's position is one with tremendous depth. Sean Spence and Vince Williams combined to cover for Shazier when he was injured last season, and they did a tremendous job in his place. The Steelers very well might want to keep the rotation in tact which was used at the end of 2014 where Shazier, Spence and Williams all saw time in certain situations.
Shazier is a great talent, but on top of injuries and depth, the coaching staff also talked about Shazier's work ethic and knowledge of the defense as being an issue. If Shazier is healthy in 2015, there is no guarantee he is the mainstay at the ILB position.
Keys: The main key to this scenario is Shazier's health. Mike Tomlin is a big fan of Shazier, and will want him in the lineup, but if the undersized Shazier can't stay healthy this scenario becomes null and void. If Shazier stays healthy, there is no doubt he possesses the sideline-to-sideline speed the Steelers want at the position. Shazier is a thoroughbred just waiting to be run...something no one was able to see much of in 2014.