When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft, myself and others probably thought, “What on earth are they thinking? They need a corner.”
I’ll be the first to admit that I jumped all over the Steelers for not selecting a corner with their first pick, especially when Darqueze Dennard was on the board, but none the less, the rookie linebacker turned some heads last Saturday.
Shazier suffered a “boo boo,” yes, a boo boo, during training camp. The boo boo kept him out of seven practices as well as the Steelers’ first preseason game against the New York Giants. The boo boo, however, didn’t hinder his performance against the Bills.
Shazier had 11 solo tackles and a fantastic interception in the Steelers’ win. Shazier managed to snag a two-handed pick off EJ Manuel, the pass was intended for Bills’ tight end Scott Chandler but Shazier cut into the route and returned the interception for 27-yards.
Shazier was all over the field, within the first couple plays his name was mentioned multiple times. It appears he’s come as advertised. He’s fast and a play maker. There was little doubt during the early days of camp that Shazier wouldn’t be a starter. He made his point against the Bills and banished any doubt that he’s not ready to start in Dick LeBeau’s defense.
While it’s still early, Shazier — in just one game — set the bar very high. The expectation will be for Shazier to be a key factor in the pass rush and play making aspects. The Steelers wanted to get younger on the defensive side of the ball and the former Buckeye, at just 21-years-old, is making an early impact.
Another name that’s garnered attention and is expected to make an impact like Shazier is second round pick, Stephon Tuitt. The Steelers needed help on the defensive line and Tuitt could be that aid. The Steelers first two picks could pan out to be huge assets heading into the 2014 season.
With the third preseason game tomorrow night, we should see extensive play from all the Steelers’ starters. It’s early, but with Shazier and Tuitt, hopes remain high.