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Steelers vs. Bengals: Ryan Shazier to return to dual-challenge

Steelers rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier will return to the lineup after missing three games with an ankle injury. He's back to face the exact kind of opponent the Steelers drafted him to face. Here's a film breakdown from the Steelers last year against the Bengals.

Giovani Bernard caught an Andy Dalton pass unchallenged in the Bengals' Week 2 win over the Steelers in 2013.

He then ran untouched into the end zone. It was probably the easiest touchdown he'll ever score as a pro. The Steelers' defense was an alignment nightmare but, more than anything, the Bengals were able to exploit the Steelers' lack of athleticism on the defensive side of the ball by designing plays to get their shifty and elusive running back the ball in space.

Pardon the fact the text in the GIF refers to Williams as "Wilson," but the breakdown rings true. And it also typifies the reasons why the Steelers drafted linebacker Ryan Shazier with the 15th overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Williams carries the tight end up the field way too deep, especially considering his general lack of speed - at least in comparison to Shazier. Having to deal with the open-field speed of a team like the Bengals was a big concern for the Steelers in 2014, and Shazier was selected to help negate that advantage.

Awareness and athleticism combined is what makes a great linebacker. Williams, in his first NFL game, didn't show that, which is understandable. He's improved tremendously since then. But Shazier's value in the Steelers' Week 14 game against this same Bengals team can't be understated. Carrying Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati's athletic pass-catching tight end, will be handled by Shazier multiple times on Sunday, and keeping up with Bernard will be as well.

Shazier has missed the last three games with an ankle injury and has missed seven total games in 2014, largely making his rookie season a wash. He'll be a key player on Sunday, though, and has an opportunity to make up for time lost.