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Ryan Shazier getting closer to a return to Steelers' lineup

The Pittsburgh Steelers' first-round draft pick has been ruled out for this week's game against the Cleveland Browns, but Ryan Shazier isn't ruling out anything beyond that.

Streeter Lecka

By Dale Grdnic

PITTSBURGH -- Even though he already has been ruled out for this week's game at Cleveland, inside linebacker Ryan Shazier is getting closer to returning to the Pittsburgh Steelers lineup.

Shazier, the club's No. 1 pick this year, practiced on a limited basis Thursday and Friday after missing two weeks with an MCL sprain in his right knee. Shazier was among the three starting defensive players with significant injuries occurring Sept. 21 at Carolina.

"I feel pretty good,'' Shazier said this week. "I'm not at 100 percent, but it was nice to be out there running around with the guys. I got some individual work in, and we'll see how I feel next week. But I'm progressing every day and getting better every day, so that gives me hope.''

Shazier took it easy shortly after the injury, and he spent last week working out on a treadmill and in an exercise pool. So, just to be on the field in any capacity has to be special for Shazier, who was coming along nicely this season. He's still fifth in total tackles, just a handful behind free safety Mike Mitchell.

Team tackle leader Lawrence Timmons was pleased with his progress.

"He was starting to play real good,'' Timmons said. "I don't know when he'll be able to get back out there on a full-time basis, but I'm sure he'll pick up right where he left off. It shouldn't take him too long.''

Until then, Shazier is relegated to watching the Steelers from the sideline, a new experience for him.

"It sucks, because I'm so used to being out here and playing, trying to make an impact, but when you're injured all you can do is watch and rehab and try to get better that way,'' Shazier said. "So, that's what I'm doing, and I'll keep working hard to get back on the field with my teammates.''

It's probably not out of the question for Shazier to increase his practice time next week, but he likely will still be a long-shot to play. But since the Steelers play Monday night at home, Oct. 20, against the Houston Texans, there's always a chance. Barring any setbacks, the home game Oct. 26 against the Indianapolis Colts is more likely.

"We'll see, but I'm not trying to rush back and get out there too fast, because it's a long season,'' Shazier said. "I don't want to re-injure it and have a setback, so I'm doing everything they ask me to do. I'm not really pushing it yet, but that will happen once I get back at practice. Right now, I'm taking it slow and doing a little bit at a time.''

Shazier doesn't have much of a point of reference, as far as this injury is concerned. He sprained the MCL in his left knee several years ago as a freshman at Ohio State, but it was at the end of the season. So, the Buckeyes had about five weeks before their bowl game, and Shazier had plenty of time to heal and get ready for the game.

Notes: Along with Shazier (right knee), CB Ike Taylor (right forearm) and S Shamarko Thomas (hamstring) have been ruled out. ... DE Brett Keisel, TE Heath Miller, FS Mike Mitchell and SS Troy Polamalu -- who had days off this past week -- are ready to go. ... The Browns could be missing five starters, as DE Phillip Taylor (knee) and DE Billy Winn (quadricep) already are out, while CB Joe Haden (hip), OLB Paul Kruger (back) and DT Ahtyba Rubin (ankle) are listed as questionable.