It's funny how history has a way of repeating itself.
Sure enough, after doing some research, I found this link to the BTSC draft-thread that captures quite nicely the mostly unpopular reaction to the selection of Ryan Shazier with the 15th pick of the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Here are just some of the immediate reactions:
"F**k this draft!"
"Sigh....well, I guess I'll hope for the best. As of now, not a fan."
"Hate it. Hate it. Hate it."
"Unless he's playing defensive end, waste of a pick."
There were even comments about Shazier's handsomeness (or lack of it), as well as his eyebrow situation. I couldn't understand the pick, either, and was shocked Pittsburgh didn't go with Darqueze Dennard, the highly-ranked cornerback from Michigan State.
In your defense and mine, after hearing about the need of a cornerback for so long, to see the Steelers pass over a good prospect at the position just seemed, well, like a reach. However, in-spite of Shazier's problems with injuries during his two years in the league (he's missed 11 of a possible 32 games), there is no doubt his selection was sound and that he was an immediate upgrade in the "defensive play-maker" department.
In-fact, when Shazier is actually healthy and going at full-speed, he often looks like Troy Polamalu, but with a few extra inches and about 25 more pounds (kind of scary, when you think about it).
When the Steelers drafted Shazier in 2014, they did so based on his production at Ohio State (317 total tackles and 15 sacks in three seasons), as well as his freakish athleticism (42-inch vertical leap and sub-4.4 40 speed).
Pittsburgh had it in mind that Shazier, who played a lot of outside linebacker in college, would make the transition to the inside at the pro-level and finally be the replacement for the legendary James Farrior.
Mike Tomlin and Co. probably also envisioned that Shazier could one day be the difference in an important game. Turns out, Shazier was the best all-around player on the field this past January, when Pittsburgh outlasted the Bengals in a wild card playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium. Shazier had nine total tackles, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Speaking of those forced fumbles, the second one came with mere minutes left, just after Landry Jones, who was filling in for an injured Ben Roethlisberger, appeared to throw the season away with an interception to Vontaze Burfict.
One play later, Shazier stripped Jeremy Hill of the football and literally saved the Steelers season.
In retrospect, based on his college production, as well as his NFL.com draft profile grade (6.3), Shazier was far from a reach. He was simply a player who came out of left-field, based on a ton of pre-draft speculation that didn't include him coming to Pittsburgh.
Did the selection of Shazier immediately satisfy everyone who loves the Steelers and the draft ? No, but the long run is what matters.
It's like what a close friend tells Alex Hitchens, a suave and successful dating coach played by Will Smith in the movie Hitch:
"You know what your problem is, Hitch? You're all about the short game. You pick your shots based on what you see first, not what's necessarily best for you in the long run."
As Hitch's friend was using pool as a metaphor for love, little did he know his true love was right there in the same bar as him that night, and she would soon become a major part of his life.
Much like Shazier two years ago, Artie Burns was a pick that came out of left-field. But while Burns' selection did little to satisfy immediate urges and earn the Steelers post-draft raves, it's all about the long game when it comes to the NFL Draft.
Ryan Shazier's playoff heroics are proof of that.