It’s been a bit of a transition period for a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that for a lot of the last decade or so was among the best in the NFL.
Out with the old, in with the new, so to speak.
The Steelers have had to replace a lot of big name players in their organization, guys like James Harrison who just couldn’t produce at the level they once could. With all the veteran players moving on, guys who were part of building the championship culture in Pittsburgh, trends are bound to be bucked.
One thing Pittsburgh doesn’t often do is allow rookies to start unless they really prove they can make a difference right away. In first round pick Ryan Shazier out of Ohio State, they appear to have someone who can do just that.
Shazier has speed to burn. He reportedly ran a sub-4.4 second 40-yard dash at Ohio State’s pro day, and did so prior to the beginning of the 2013 season as well.
His speed is evident in game situations. While Shazier played in a 4-3 base defense at Ohio State, he will play inside the 3-4 alignment for the Steelers, but he can be even more effective in that role.
With the kind of speed he possesses, Shazier is able to fly to the ball and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He is also strong and instinctive, showing the ability to stop the run. His ability to get tackles for loss and sacks as well as cover linebackers and running backs with his cornerback speed is why so many feel like Shazier is a serious candidate for defensive rookie of the year.
In the Steelers’ defense, he’s obviously going to rack up tackles, but where he was a monster at Ohio State was in the TFL category. As a junior, he had 23.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks to go along with four forced fumbles.
And that was at reportedly under 230 pounds.
Shazier’s physicality, work ethic, and freakish athletic ability make him an ideal transition player from college to the NFL, especially with defensive minds like Dick LeBeau and Mike Tomlin leading the charge.
As smart a player as he is, it wouldn’t be surprise to see Shazier be the next “Luke Kuechly” type of player. He can lead the Steelers in tackles as a rookie, and he can also move all around the defensive formation, rushing the QB from the edge or the inside, as well as flying to the football wherever it may go.
I loved this pick for Pittsburgh, who needed to add someone like this for their defense. Someone who could come in and provide a spark immediately.
Shazier will do just that.