As Ryan Shazier looks to become the first rookie to start a season with the Pittsburgh Steelers on defense since Kendrell Bell, he does have one notable advantage that many other past rookies have not, which is a big part of why he was drafted: speed.
More specifically, mistake speed.
You know, I’ve heard this term, “mistake speed”, in reference to defensive backs before. I can’t remember if it was Keith Butler or Dick LeBeau who said that Ryan Shazier has mistake speed. What they meant was he can make a mistake, diagnose the fact that he’s made a mistake, and run like heck and get to where he was supposed to be in the first place in time to still make the play. That’s one of the things that separates this guy.
That was Mike Prisuta recently, commenting on the conclusion of the first set of OTAs this past week as we got our first glimpses of the latest crop of rookies.
Many linebackers are fast, of course. But not many of them are 4.4 fast: fast enough that you could talk about them in defensive back terms.
As silly as it might sound, Shazier’s sheer speed should help him transition from the college game to the professional level, simply because he will be able, on occasion, to correct a mistake by running to the play once he realizes his mistake, a fact of which he is self-aware:
I knew I was a pretty fast player. People always told me the speed of the game is fast, and wherever I went I was pretty much as fast as everybody or faster, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. But now, everybody’s fast on this level, so one little mistake on this level can make a big difference. So it really makes a difference [to be fast].
Maybe that’s why the aforementioned LeBeau was so enthusiastic about the prospects of landing Shazier in the first round of the draft, with a mind toward getting him on the field early and often in his first season.
According to Bob Labriola, LeBeau joked that “by the time the 15 minutes [on the draft clock] went up, he might have come up with a couple of new blitzes in his head involving Ryan Shazier”.
The Steelers had just lost veteran Larry Foote, and the potential candidates to replace him were, quite frankly, full of question marks at the time. The prospect of landing a linebacker that could start as a rookie was clearly tempting.
Given that it was either Butler or LeBeau himself who brought up the topic of mistake speed in reference to Shazier, it was obviously a consideration when drafting him. They saw last season what happened when Vince Williams or Jarvis Jones would make a mistake as a rookie and they didn’t have the speed to compensate.
Even if he doesn’t end up starting the season opener, he still figures to have a prominent role early in the season, so expect the mistake speed theory to be put to the test sooner rather than later.