Plenty Of Time To Scrutinize The Ryan Shazier Pick In The Months Ahead

For many, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 15th overall selection of inside linebacker Ryan Shazier may have come as a bit of a surprise, and perhaps somewhat earlier than expected. That certainly seemed to be the general tone on set.

Even though I wrote about Shazier yesterday as one of the five realistic targets the Steelers should be satisfied coming away with, it did come as somewhat of a surprise with other players still available. It seemed reasonable that Shazier was a player that could have potentially been had later in a trade-down scenario.

According to a variety of reports, however, it appears that if Shazier didn’t go 15th overall, he was likely headed to Texas with the next pick, as his agent was reportedly on the phone with the Dallas Cowboys when the Steelers selected him.

Additionally, Jim Wexell writes that the Steelers would not have been able to find a trade-down partner anyway, if they were so inclined. Still, the hypothetical of being able to trade down to 22 and still acquire cornerback Darqueze Dennard is certainly tasty food for thought, but it would have been impossible to predict that.

So, before we go head-first into analyzing the selection of Shazier, let it be known that the Steelers selected him exactly where they needed to, because he would have been gone one pick later.

Shazier will in all likelihood play the mack inside linebacker, assuming he can earn a starting spot as a rookie, moving Lawrence Timmons over to the buck, and probably assuming playcalling duties.

As of right now, it seems that he will have a reasonable shot of becoming an opening-day starter. His competition, of course, will be second-year former sixth-round draft pick Vince Williams and third-year former third-round pick Sean Spence.

Williams started most of the season last year when Larry Foote was lost for the season in the opener, though he was regularly subbed out on obvious passing downs. With Shazier’s 4.4 speed and natural coverage ability, that will not be an issue.

Spence, on the other hand, has a lot of characteristics in common with Shazier—at least when he was drafted. He has missed his first two seasons due to a severe knee injury that resulted in nerve damage, but the expectation is that he will ultimately be able to contribute this year.

Whether he will be the same player physically that they drafted two years ago is another matter, and the team would perhaps be wary of thrusting him into a starting lineup after not playing two years anyway.

In the meantime, we have ample opportunity to scrutinize this selection in the months ahead before we ever see him on the field. Perhaps it could be argued that inside linebacker wasn’t as big of a need as cornerback, but in a 3-4, the middle of the defense is everything.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • shawn

    Considering our 1st pick ( i was a big fan of getting CB 1st round and WR 2nd round) i actually think going DE or NT in Tuitt/Nix next round makes the most sense and hitting up CB in 3rd round and hope we get lucky and one of our targets is still there (Gaines/ Desir)

    At least this way, with either choice above we could seemingly solidify our first 2 levels of DEF ( DL & LBs) with either Tuitt at DE or Nix at NT and moving Mclendon over to DE … and if we dont come away with our choice of CB … could possibly be our top choice next year … we weren’t going to fill every hole this year anyhow …

    Not a huge fan of the 1st round pick ( due to position not player) but with a little draft adjustment it could workout just the same

  • SixburghFan

    The best way to defend the pass is to put pressure on the quarterback. Period. Having good/great corners is nice but the Steelers have had tremendous defensive success over the years without them because of pressure. I think Shazier gives them more options defensively to put pressure on the QB to force a turnover compared to Dennard trying to cover someone longer and have a chance at an interception. One of the underrated parts of the Steelers’ blitz packages has always been the ILB blitz – Shazier has the speed and intelligence to be more effective at it Timmons is or Farrior ever was – and Farrior was good at it. Shazier’s versatility will also allow them to use him in coverage and have someone else blitz unexpectedly such as Polamalu, Thomas, Mitchell or Timmons. I’m happy with the pick especially considering what was and wasn’t still on the table at that point.

  • T R

    so does this pick shut down the possibility of bringing back “The Beard”?

  • T R

    Exactly , lets get to the QB… worry bout the back end later.

  • joed32

    Has nothing to do with the D line, he’s a backer not a DE.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Despite what many folks on this site believe, Vince Williams, Terrence Garvin, and Sean Spence never contributed to any Steeler wins…they could all be replaced equitably with UDFA. Now they are just roster fillers, hopefully solid backups. Good luck you three, keep working hard, make some modest contributions, earn a nice salary and a pension. Injuries to our good LB will happen and we’ll need you to play at your best.

  • steeltown

    ILB wasn’t as big of a need as CB IMO but I’ll say this, I like this selection more than when we drafted Jarvis last year

  • Paddy

    Biggest hole on team. Farrior left and it’s never been the same.

  • steeltown

    I think V.Williams might turn into a solid BUCK LB, but yes Spence is still a wild card and Garvin contrary to belief is purely a special teamer at this point

  • Chad H

    This kid can straight up play. Not a glamour pick but I think we all will love it come next season. I saw this kid on the the Steelers radar and overall I wanted Fuller but I’m not upset.

  • Gerald Brown

    I am so glad someone said this, couldn’t agree more! I love the pick, this guy is a gamer. Dennard does not fit our system and has injury concern, good player, but I love the speed and tenacity of Ryan Shazier

  • Alan Felicia

    Well said. This reminds me of the LB corp in the 90s when they had Greg Lloyd, Levon Kirkland, Jason Gildon, and Chad Brown – athletic, fast, solid tacklers!
    Can’t wait to see Timmons and Shazier manning the middle this year!

  • Alan Felicia

    It shuts down the possibility of bringing back Harrison.

  • Alan Felicia

    Spence is not a wild card! At this point, the best he can do is be a Special Team player. And that’s IF he makes the roster.

  • Biggie

    I’ve truly been waiting to get that dominate ILB we haven’t been able to find since Farrior retired. Shazier could be it and his ability to play in sub packages will be bunus not to mention opening up Timmons as well.

  • steeltown

    That’s sort of what I mean, his future is up in the air

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Shawn this is a really good point. We have like 5 positions where we “need” a 1st round pick (starter). There is no way to fill them all in one draft. No matter how the draft unfolds there are going to be 3 positions where we say “Dang it. We should’ve filled that position earlier.”

    Even if we drafted Dennard in the 1st and a WR in the 2nd, we still have voids at DL, TE, LB.

  • shawn

    yup … i said all along it was a 2 year process … by next year if we draft well we should be pretty stocked (granted if we extend and keep our young talent)

  • jtrain23

    I like this pick for a few reasons. A. He is a straight up play maker that seems to do everything well. He can tackle and rush the backfield. He has the speed and athleticism to cover. B. The Farrior comparison has got us talking about James Farrior. He was kind of the “forgotten man” on the defense, and even in the linebacker core, at times. He never got the credit that he deserved. The defense has been lackluster at best since he left the time.

    Hopefully, Shazier can fill that void and can get the universal appreciation and credit that Farrior deserved.

  • With the board that is left out there today, I think we almost have to go DL. There will likely be 2 or 3 guys left that could have been late first rounders when we pick, and DL is a glaring need.

  • shawn

    Have to agree … its almost foolish to do otherwise … but tell ya what … wouldnt surprise me if they do … one thing i can almost always count on is the steelers never doing what i wish for .. not saying it doesnt work out, just always take different routes !

  • Louis Goetz

    Shazier’s going to be used as an inside linebacker; not outside, so the pick won’t have anything to do with whether or not the Steelers bring back Harrison, who’s exclusively an outside linebacker. Right now they only have Worilds, Jones, Carter and newly acquired Arthur Moats as OLBs. So, there’s still a chance the Steelers bring Harrison back. It all depends on what happens in rounds 4 – 7. It’s an outside chance, but a chance none-the-less.

  • Alan Felicia

    No chance at all. You’ve already listed the depth chart for OLB – Worilds, Jones, Carter, and Moates. At Inside, its Timmons, Williams, Garvin, Shazier, and Spence. That’s 9 LBs total. Pittsburgh normally carries 8-9. If Shazier was not drafted, Harrison could’ve had a chance as the 4th OLB with Moates filling the depth at ILB.
    Now, if any injury occurs to either Jones or Worilds, then the door will be open for Harrison.

  • Louis Goetz

    If Moats making the final 53 is written in stone, you’re 100% right. I’m not so sure of that, though. I think the Steelers signed a number of free agents who may not make the final cut (i.e. Moats, Brice McCain and Darrius Heyward-Bey).