Moving right along on the roster series we rotate back to the defense and into the linebackers core focusing on a dynamic, disruptive 3rd year middle linebacker.
Player: Ryan Shazier
School: Ohio State
To say that inside linebacker has been a strength for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the the years is, most certainly, an understatement. From Jack Lambert to David Little, Kendrell Bell, James Farrior and Larry Foote, fans of the Steelers have grown accustomed to elite, if not steady, productive play from this position.
When Ryan Shazier was drafted in the 1st round of the 2014 draft many hoped he would fit into this lineage seamlessly, and after a stellar sophomore campaign he seems poised to do just that. The hype has certainly been there this offseason, but the careful, thorough film studies done on this blog show that it seems to be warranted. ( if you haven’t gotten a chance to check out Chris Carter’s great work on this subject do that after you’re done reading)
For one, he has this unbelievable speed that is so evident, not only in foot races, but translated onto the playing field in the form of darting, disruptive cruise missiles into the offensive blocking schemes and opposing running backs. Also, he gives Keith Butler incredible flexibility in designing exotic looks as he’s able to lineup far outside, at times, because he has the athleticism to cover slot receivers and tight ends. Typically, he’ll apply pressure from that position, but his cover ability allows for disguise and deception as it’s not a huge matchup problem for him to drop into man or zone.
Not only was it encouraging to see him on the field and healthy much more in 2015, but it’s a great sign for the Steelers organization to see him taking ownership, and by most accounts, excelling at the play calling duties for the defense. The idea of Shazier developing into not only a dominant physical athlete, but also a highly cerebral, mentally unleashed player should be terrifying to the rest of the NFL. If he needs to polish a part of his game it would be a slight tendency to over pursue, and, at times, he could show a bit more patience allowing plays to develop before attacking.
Disruptive playmaker especially vs. the run
Utilizes great agility to slip blocks
Excellent speed with “sideline to sideline” range
Plenty of athleticism to cover TE’s and WR’s
Somewhat prone to overaggressiveness
As a zone defender could improve anticipation, reaction
Chances of Making the team: 100%