By Alex Kozora
The Pittsburgh Steelers first pick of the 2014 NFL Draft is in the books and to most, it came as a slight surprise. After watching five games of him, my initial scouting report on the 15th pick of the draft. Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier.
Ryan Shazier/ILB Ohio St: 6’1 237
– Muscular frame, cut well and looks to have very little body fat
– Plus length for his height (32 3/8 arms) with big hands (10 inches)
– Elite athlete, workout numbers through the roof, a freak
– Fluid, smooth, makes it look effortless
– Explosive first step, acceleration one of the best in his class
– Instinctive, high football IQ and reads plays very well
– Overall, plays in control of himself and not reckless
– Takes proper angles to the football
– Flows exceptionally well, doesn’t get caught up in the trash
– Closing speed and great chasedown, just as much of a threat from the backside, perhaps even moreso
– Quick feet
– Very little stiffness in his hips while in coverage, transitions without issue, looks like a corner
– Packs a punch in his tackles
– Flashes the ability to hand fight and shed
– Wasn’t asked to edge rush much but showed hip/ankle flexibility to bend around the edge and ability to convert speed to power
– Asked to do a lot at Ohio State, multiple assignments
– Tons of experience in coverage
– Extremely productive career, playmaker
– Seemingly high character
– Lean build that he may have to fill out, a bit underweight
– Below average upper body strength and can get pushed around
– Looks tentative when he is unable to see the play unfold in front of him
– More prone to getting run out when he has nowhere to go (clean base block, scoop block that doesn’t give him an angle) prefers to go around than go through
– Strength to hold point of attack against TEs but predictably struggles vs OL
– Couple of unnecessary penalties
– Must consistently learn to snap hips and drive through contact, can tackle too high and loses strength
– Occasional missed tackles
– Sometimes a bit overzealous and will run self out of the play
– 28 career starts, left as a true junior
– 2013: 134 tackles, 22.5 TFL, 6 sacks, 4 FF
– Career: 306 tackles, 44.5 TFL, 14 sacks, 9 FF
– 2013 First Team AP All-American
– 2012 and 2013 First Team All-Big Ten
– Received scholarship offers from Alabama, Florida, and LSU out of high school
– 100 tackles, 12 sacks as a senior in high school
– 87 tackles, 19 sacks as a junior
– Suffers from alopecia, autoimmune disease that leads to hair loss
– Last name pronounced “shay-zeer” (rhymes with ear)
If you’ve read my reports, you know I attempt to be as honest and transparent as possible. If I don’t like a guy, I’ll tell you even if it isn’t a popular opinion (see Greg Robinson). And if I like a player, I’ll unabashedly say so (see Chris Borland).
Steelers’ fans, I really like Ryan Shazier.
You can just look at him getting off the bus. Check out this picture of him running at what is presumably his Pro Day. Shazier is cut. Looks to have very little fat and that’s in mid run when pictures aren’t always the most flattering (see Terrence Cody).
His workout numbers pop as much as any player. After not running at the Combine due to a hamstring injury, he turned in a 4.37 at his Pro Day. Jumped 42 inches in the vertical at the Combine. 1.56 ten yard split tied Khalil Mack. 10’10” in the broad jump led all linebackers. All impressive and rare for his position.
First thing you’ll notice on the tape is his explosiveness. One of the best first steps I’ve seen. Truly a zero to sixty type of player. Consistently saw it on his tape.
One of two big plays he made on the final drive against Wisconsin to preserve the win. You can see Shazier read the running back’s release off the snap. Once he sees he’s staying into block and there’s a lane to run through, he attacks it. Shazier is #10 and it’s easy to identify him because of the white towel he uses.
Pressure helps force an incomplete pass. He followed that up with forcing a fumble on the next play. Two plays later, the Buckeyes win.
Going to show this next example in still shots. Against Cal, the tight end attempts to base block Shazier. He gets his hips set and seems to be in decent position.
And then Shazier shoots through, bypassing the tight end and helping to chip in on the tackle.
Kevin Colbert was dead on when he said you don’t amass the number of tackles Shazier had by not running to the football. He did a fantastic job rallying to the ball. Chase down and effort was as good as I’ve seen it. Like I noted, that may be where he’s at his best.
Part of that ability goes beyond the physical. It’s the mental and an area Shazier likely doesn’t get enough credit for. He’s an incredibly intelligent player who can read and react to a play. The explosion just happens to get him there faster than most.
Against Wisconsin, a power scheme he handled extremely well, the tight end starts to work to him on this stretch.
But Shazier watches the play, sees the running back start to cut, and plants too.
Able to elude the tight end and winds up making the tackler.
He does a great job of “avoiding the trash.” Meaning, he doesn’t get caught in the wash of blocks. Isn’t tripped, chipped, cut down, anything like that. Even against a Wisconsin team that can chew linebackers out.
It doesn’t always *look* like he is playing fast, and that could lead some to question his effort, but I attribute it to him diagnosing the play before hitting top speed. It’s a self-check process to keep himself in control. Best example came against Michigan St.
As soon as the pitch occurs and he knows where the ball is going, Shazier turns on the jets. Takes a good angle and delivers a big blow along the sidelines.
He isn’t one of those guys that ran around like a madman, shooting gaps and hoping for the best. He’s a controlled, dynamic athlete that will locate the ball. That’s a huge separation and the difference between a successful player and a bust. If you take away nothing else from this report, understand that.
Asked to do a good bit at Ohio State, one of the more complex schemes in college. Didn’t play as much outside linebacker as most are led to believed, but is capable. Mainly played between the box, dropping into coverage, covering the back out of the flat, or blitzing from the interior. Lot of zone coverage but has the fluidity to play man.
Was most impressed by the Cal game. Buckeyes played almost exclusively in dime, leaving Shazier as the lone linebacker.
Team asked him to cover a lot of ground and shoulder a ton of responsibility. Handled it well, too.
Can appreciate his character. You might notice in the different games he’s wearing a different number. Switched to #2 for part of the year. That was in for safety Christian Bryant who got hurt during the season. He wore #48 in a game in 2012 to honor a high school teammate that passed away. Urban Meyer has said Shazier has a “heart of gold.” Good article here on him.
On the negative side, he does lack upper body strength. This isn’t a secret. Can get pushed around and run out, especially when he can’t see the play unfold in front of him.
Lined up over the “A” gap in the clip below.
Wearing #2 in the clip below.
Like most rookies, will need to hit the weight room. Have to ensure it is “good weight” that won’t bog him down but looking at his frame, that isn’t an issue. Takes very good care of his body.
Minor complaint but some technique work. Especially with his tackling. Can go a little too high and has to develop the ability to drive through contact. Too tall on Sammy Watkins and gets pushed back a good five yards.
The pick may have been a bit surprising but with Odell Beckham Jr and Kyle Fuller off the board, it had to be a little different. And Colbert continues to stay away from cornerbacks in the first round.
With the Steelers’ running so much subpackage football last year, 60% of the time, having an athletic linebacker will rectify that. A big reason why the team was hurt against the run was a lack of a big front seven. Sure, Troy Polamalu is an enforcer but when you’re having just two down lineman and three linebackers, you’re a small unit that is prone to getting pushed around.
Shazier gives you options. He can play all three downs, no question. You can move him to the edge. Ask him to drop into man or zone. Blitz. Check the back and decide. He’s a freak, a great athlete, with intelligence and good character. What a rare combination.
Games Watched: at Cal, vs Wisconsin, vs Penn St, vs Michigan St (Big Ten Championship), vs Clemson (Bowl)
Adding below something new. My game notes from each one I watched. Hope it offers a bit more insight. Apologize in advance for any misspellings or incomplete thoughts in my game notes. They’re kind of a free flowing thing. Just the way I operate.
9-14-13 at Cal: “Shay-zeer.” Long body and overall, a lean build. But cut really well and has muscle. Body fat likely very low. Super fluid athlete, glides along, makes you think his motor isn’t running but shows how quick/athletic he is. Quick feet and smooth hips in coverage, flips/transitions without an issue. Explosive and when he reads play, closes in a hurry. When head on with a runner, form tackler who snaps his hips and drives through the runner, packing a blow. Great first step. Didn’t rush from the edge very much but did twice, showing fluidity in hips/ankles. Excellent bend and a big issue for OTs, got a sack/FF/OSU recovery that way. Times where he shows strength to shed, might come from using his hands well. Not always seen though. Perhaps too aggressive and a little out of control, will overpursue some, causing him to miss. Difficult but a bit tight in his hips when trying to change on an angle…but hard and understandable to see. Can get moved around when base blocked and block doesn’t come from an angle where he can still read the ball and react. Can get washed when uncertain where to go, can’t read play, lacking upper body strength. Late hit, personal foul. Left briefly in 2nd quarter due to shoulder. Aware, reads the play well most of the time and reacts quickly. Mostly an “ILB” between the box. OSU extensively played in dime/nickel, putting Shazier on an island in the middle of the field. Asked to cover a lot of ground and a lot of trust/responsibility put onto him. Responded to it well. Dropped a ton. Blitzed from interior a few times. Didn’t have to play in a box very much due to Cal’s offense, got to free roam and play in space. Strength to make tackles even at awkward angles, not a head on, roll through.
9-28-13 vs Wisconsin: Handled self well vs power scheme. Reads the play very well, smart, high IQ. Flows to the ball and stayed out of the trash, didn’t get tripped/chipped/washed. Uncanny explosiveness, light switch. Rallies to the ball really well. Tremdous athlete with a lot of speed. Smarts + speed. Slightly more traditional role, MIKE and SAM but still good deal of nickel. Dropped and blitzed. Flashes quick hands. Looks lost when he can’t see action/play, tentative. Still not that strong, can hold POA vs TEs but will predictably struggle some vs OL. Moved around a tiny bit but handled it well. Solid game. Big plays late, pressure/smack on QB and read/react/FF on Badgers’ final drive to help preserve victory.
10-26-13 vs Penn St: Patient player who can read play and chase it down or let it come to him. Super smooth and good chasedown ability. Explosive first step, indicates lower half strength. Had a sack. Dropped into coverage a lot, apt there. Acceleration is top notch. Will have to get stronger, Urschel (NFL type talent) had his way with him a few times. May also have to learn how to roll his hips and drive through contact, little stiff and upright. Not much edge rushing.
12-7-13 vs Michigan St (Big Ten Championship): Great game. Combines recognition and athleticism to make him a potent defender. Flies to the ball and always around it. Great chase. 2nd gear once he recognizes the play. Instinctive, calculated, doesn’t just run around shooting gaps and blowing plays up. Good tackler with force. More traditional LB, rarely from the edge, usually MIKE. Lacks strength and can get blown out. Struggles once locked on and there’s nowhere for him to go, needs a “fire escape.” Dictate where he gets to go. Comes up when scoop blocked. Penalty for PI after unneeded hit on RB in coverage. Punt deflection on ST. Tipped a pass. Wore #2 instead of #10 to honor injured teammate. Switched numbers in previous seasons.
1-3-14 vs Clemson (Bowl): Flows to the ball as well as anyone could expect. Effortless. Takes proper angles to the football, saw it in every game. Knows when/how to control speed and overall, does stay in control of himself. Times where he looks “slow” isn’t because of effort, he’s reading the play. Fun athlete to watch who hung with Watkins when Shazier had the angle. Locates the ball carrier and can stick him in the hole. Fluid hips. Can be a forceful tackler in the open field. ILB and a little more work off the edge. Glimpses of speed to power in his rush but hard to get a good read on. Can get moved around, below average strength, on the ground a little more than you’d like. Trouble holding POA when OL get clean blocks on him. Enough hand fighting to shed, makes you think he has the ability, Barr like in that regard. Will tackle too high when on the move and has trouble sinking, trucked by Watkins. Missed another tackler. Lean towards him going for the knockout blow at times though not terribly reckless.