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NFL.com: Steelers LB Ryan Shazier on the verge of a breakout season

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NFL.com came out with a list of players who they think will "Making the Leap" in 2015. Ryan Shazier was #18 on their list, singled out as a player who will exhibit a big leap in performance and productivity over previous seasons.

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2014 first-round draft pick Ryan Shazier showed tremendous potential coming out of Ohio State with a college career total 315 tackles and 44.5 sacks. His pro-day stats were also insane. What linebacker runs a 4.36 40-yard dash? Who does that?? Craziness. I'm still shocked by his time and it's been over a year since he posted it.

That's part of Shazier's problem. It's been a year since the Shazier hype reached a fever pitch. From time he was drafted until week three of the regular when he bused up his MCL in a game against the Panthers, it seemed Shazier had unlimited potential. After the draft, Mike Tomlin gushed, "He's a defensive playmaker. Bigger thank positional needs, what we needed was a defensive playmaker." I wasn't there the first time bread was sliced, but it is safe to assume it was a reaction similar to the way people reacted to Shazier last year.

Fans are getting impatient. We saw a glimpse of what he had to offer, and then, ouch!, the injury. As a number 1 pick, we want our guy hitting the field and imposing his will on our opponents.  What else do we want? We want to see that blazing-fast speed and big plays. When do we want it? All season long.  While it was unusual that Shazier was able to start as a rookie, his injury left fans dissatisfied and hungry for more... and not regretting we didn't pick CJ Mosley who was still available at the point Shazier was chosen.

So, back to the NFL.com Making the Leap list: It is fitting that Shazier has been pegged as a player ready to take his game to the next level (or two). NFL.com is predicting a 100-tackle season for the second-year player and also sees his potential in generating turnovers. Shazier's downside is the occasional overpursuit, but he has few other weaknesses unless issues with durability surface as a recurring problem.

Shazier doesn't even really need to make a leap in terms of skill and talent. He just needs to consistently display that speed, sharpness, and playmaking ability that attracted the attention of the Steelers front office when he was drafted, and showed glimpses of during the 2014 season. If he does make that leap and also stays healthy, wow. I'm thinking back to the first three games last year-- if he can sustain or exceed that level of play, his future-- and the future of the Steelers D-- will be very bright.