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Steelers ILB Ryan Shazier determined to prove his worth in 2015

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Ryan Shazier had a rough rookie season riddled with injuries, but the second year player is determined to prove his worth to himself, the Steelers organization and the fans in 2015.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

By Dale Grdnic

PITTSBURGH -- It won't take much for inside linebacker Ryan Shazier to improve on last season's performance.

The Pittsburgh Steelers first-round pick in 2014, Shazier showed promise during the spring, training camp and the preseason. However, knee and ankle injuries during the regular season limited him to just nine games, with five starts, and virtually no production.

"This is a chance to wipe the slate clean and start off healthy and do everything I need to do to get back,'' Shazier said following a recent OTA practice. "Last year, it was kind of a disappointment. I felt I could have brought more to the team. (So), I'm definitely going to try to be a bigger part of the team this year.''

Bigger is the operative word there. Shazier said that by the end of last season, when he played primarily on special teams and relinquished his starting job to Vince Williams and Sean Spence (combined), he weighed from 226-227 pounds. After a strong offseason in the weight room and intense conditioning work, Shazier began the Steelers' offseason program at around 233 or 234 pounds.

That physical growth was achieved honestly, through hard work and dedication to improving his body. Now, Shazier needs to improve his on-field performance.

"I'm definitely taking advantage of these (OTAs),'' Shazier said. "I'm trying to get a better understanding of everything, make sure I know what everybody is doing and make sure I know what I am doing. That way, we can all be on the same page.''

Shazier believed that he still has something to prove to his teammates and the Steelers coaching staff, but veteran inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons didn't necessarily agree with that assessment.

"He doesn't have to prove anything to me, because I know what he can do,'' Timmons said. "I'm sure he's a confident guy, too, but he probably feels like he still has a lot to show us. I hope he does, because I know he's got a lot more to give than he did last year due to the injuries.''

Along with the difficulty Shazier had with the various injuries he suffered, he also had to deal with inactivity after playing a great deal.

"I learned a lot, but I am not used to watching and not being able to play,'' Shazier said. "(But) it also helped me become a better teammate and player. (And) I'm just trying to help us get to the next level, get our seventh Super Bowl. So, I have to prove that I'm capable of doing that.''

And with any improvement at all, Shazier should be successful.