First-round draft pick Ryan Shazier had a disappointing debut season in 2014 after he was sidelined with a knee injury and then a separate ankle injury. Armchair coaches wondered if Shazier would live up to his potential, or if he was too fragile for the NFL. In 2015, Shazier showed the speed and playmaking ability that first intrigued the Pittsburgh Steelers during his days as an Ohio State star.
Now, as Shazier reflects on a much healthier, more productive 2015 season, he is mindful of the Steelers enduring legacy and aspires to develop a legacy of his own through his contributions. Unselfish, however, he speaks for the entire group of linebackers, including both Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree when he told Steelers.com, "We would love to have that type of legacy. Who wouldn't want to be on the list of guys like Jack Lambert and Jack Ham? That sounds amazing. We all want that. We play this game to be great. We are going to work so we can continue the tradition."
The days of the Steel Curtain often seemed eons ago during several dismal games this past season. There were, however, flashes of brilliance and signs of potential, often due to the quickness and keen instincts of Shazier. Finishing the season with 87 tackles in the regular season and a remarkable 13 in the postseason certainly has his arrow pointing up heading into 2016.
Lawrence Timmons is usually the player communicating the calls to the defense, but this year Shazier ended up calling the plays on defense. "I did it at Ohio State," he shared. "The coaches feel it's my time to do it now. During the year, I started understanding more, I think the coaches could see that. They understood it wasn't bothering my play. I could set the defense and still go out there and play."
Shazier is not one to rest on his laurels. "You are trying to build on tradition. That is what we are trying to do the next few years. That is what they drafted us for, to make the city proud," he said. As one of the cornerstones of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, a healthy, motivated, and more experienced Shazier has the opportunity to do just that.