Talk to most Pittsburgh Steelers fans and they will give you a handful of players who they feel the team could be considering for their first round draft pick, and Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans would be among those listed.
The talented, and versatile, linebacker brings with him a tenacity which could help elevate the Pittsburgh defense from Day 1, and help ease the blow of life without Ryan Shazier. But there is one big question mark surrounding Evans, and that would be injuries he has suffered to his groins last season with the Crimson Tide.
While at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine Evans spoke about his injuries, among other things, as he turns his attention away from National Championships, and directs them towards the National Football League.
(Transcript courtesy of Pat Leonard)
Have teams been asking you if you were 100% when you came back from the groin injury or whether you were just gutting it out at less than 100%?
“Yeah that was definitely one of the topics of conversation and I just naturally told them I wasn’t 100% the whole season, which was me being honest with them, but the fact that I actually have a chance to get better now and have some time off to rehab on those two groin injuries, I feel a lot better now. And I think that was the No. 1 thing they wanted to hear.”
“Did they notice a difference between 2016 and 2017 on film?”
“Absolutely. They said I definitely improved as far as my ability playing inside linebacker. I feel like I needed a year up under my belt to understand and play the position. I feel they saw a big improvement in my play.”
“Did they see less explosiveness because of the groin?”
“I think the explosiveness was still there. I think the No. 1 thing was me learning the position. I think the mental part about was what they were more worried about. Could I lead a group of men, be able to make the calls in an NFL type defense. So that was one of the many things they wanted to ask.”
Some may consider this just lip service, but his honesty about his injuries during this process should be noted. What also should be noted is how he describes himself as a player, and the fact he was the main playcaller in the complex Alabama defense.
“When did you take over making the calls on D?”
“Well at the time probably my senior year when I really started to get comfortable, me and Shaun Dion (Hamilton) were really the guys that split the reps. Once Shaun Dion got hurt it was kind of more left up to me to make most of the calls, but I did have some help, some of the younger guys, where they were able to make some of the calls, as well. So it was really a learning curve for everybody, just kind of learning how to play with each other. But most of those calls I was having to make without Shaun.”
“How (someone) would describe him.”
“Just another dog. Another guy that’s unselfish, relentless and willing to work each and every day.”
What was really interesting about this interview was how Evans was asked specifically about the Steelers, but more importantly Ryan Shazier. What it would be like to try and replace a player as explosive as Shazier. His answers didn’t disappoint.
“Hypothetically if you get drafted by the Steelers and you have to replace Ryan Shazier, would that be difficult because that’s an extra level of expectation?”
“Oh, no. Not at all. The Steelers are something as a team that I definitely would love to play for. Mike Tomlin is a great coach. I’ve actually seen Ryan Shazier’s highlights and how he plays, and I think me and him actually have similar attributes. So I mean I think that would be a team that I actually would fit in pretty well with.”
“What about the pressure of replacing a guy that …”
“Oh no. I mean I played under pressure my whole career at Alabama. In championships, even having to come in with no starts at all and having to compete at a high level and play against guys that have had multiple starts under their belt and me being able to play like I did as a sophomore in the national championship game. I feel like I can do that even at the next level.”
While teams will have to do their homework on Evans from a health standpoint, from an on-field standpoint he would be a player almost any team, especially the Steelers, would love to have on their roster. If he is available at pick No. 28, don’t be shocked to see him rocking a Steelers hat and jersey celebrating with family and friends.