Ryan Shazier Gives Steelers A Jump On What To Expect

Even though he is essentially already in the starting lineup, Pittsburgh Steelers rookie inside linebacker Ryan Shazier seemed to leap into it this past week during the final block of voluntary organized practices.

From reports, he used about every ounce of real estate afforded by his 42-inch vertical leaping ability to intercept a pass that reserve quarterback Bruce Gradkowski was convinced would find its way home to Martavis Bryant.

Shazier had other ideas. “It was a little high but I felt I could get up there”, he said about the athletic play following practice.

“We were in a certain coverage; I had a zone-drop. I read the quarterback’s eyes. I knew he thought he was going to be able to get it over me. I just jumped up and did what I can”.

Gradkowski is now among those who understand what this rookie can do as well, after seeing it for himself. The veteran wouldn’t have thrown that ball if he thought that Shazier could make a play on it.

“No, I didn’t, I definitely didn’t [think he could get it]. I thought, ‘OK, let me just lay this over him’. I saw Martavis coming in the window. [Shazier] jumped and I still have this snapshot in my head. I’m like, ‘this dude was 90 feet off the ground’”.

As much as Gradkowski regretted seeing his own pass intercepted, however, he later reflected, realizing that he hopes to see this play many times to come from Shazier against opposing quarterbacks.

“A veteran like myself, you never want to see that happen. At the same time I hope we see a lot of that from him this year…In a sense I’m kinda mad it happened. In another, it’s good to see young guys making plays”.

And from the sounds of it, the Steelers may envision Shazier making plays all over the field.

“You never know with Coach [Dick] LeBeau”, he told Jim Wexell. “He can call anything. Maybe one play I might be on Antonio Brown; next play I might be on Le’Veon [Bell]; next play I might be on Heath [Miller]. Whatever he wants me and the defense to do, I’ll give it 100 percent”.

As Mike Prisuta writes, “the Steelers’ anticipation of what he’ll do when the shoulder pads finally come on is heightened, seemingly on a daily basis”.

The rookie’s potential for playmaking success is just too much to pass up in favor of a pair of only moderately more experienced players who know the defense better.

As much as Sean Spence has come a long way from where he was last season to being a full participant—and a high level participant—in every OTA session, it doesn’t seem as though Shazier has any interest in opening himself up to competition.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • joed32

    I wish someone would have had a clip or a photo that we could see.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Is there ANYONE in Steeler Nation still going, “Man! We should have gone corner in the first round!”

    Armchair GM’s and skeptics alike, I give you Exhibit A: Ryan Shazier.

  • Chazsteelerfan

    I imagine Coach Lebeau is pretty hyped about what could be done with 3 Inside LBs with this kind of athleticism. Assuming Spence gets back to 100% we could see certain looks at times, with all 3 on the field at once especially against 2 TE sets, or to bring an extra blitz from the inside. It really gives Lebeau another set of tools to keep defenses guessing and accounting for.

  • cencalsteeler

    Start grooming Shark for corner/nickel/dime package coverage and transition Spence to take over for Troy.

  • falconsaftey43

    If you really wanted to move someone to safety i think shazier would make more sense. I dont see either spence or shazier changing positions though.

  • charles

    Spence made a very athletic interception in his rookie preseason career too.
    Given the prototypical edge rusher that looks like Lawrence Taylor or James Harrison (and that has been the best that the NFL has dished up in its history) I don’t quite understand why everyone is putting Shazier inside replacing Williams. I am reminded a little of last year preseason, when, the coaches were playing Redmond, Batch, and Dwyer. Everyone assumed that they would start, instead they got cut. Because coach is playing somebody in one position doesn’t mean that is where they play or even IF they play. Sure would like to see the speed of Spence and Shazier attacking the edges where NFL history has shown us what the best looks like.

  • Leon Mcnair

    If the Qb is getting sacked why waste a first rd on a CB that’s not what the steelers do that’s why they have linebackers to put pressure on the qb

  • Matthew Marczi

    Me too, but I trust the eyes of the likes of Jim Wexell, Mike Prisuta, and others to give fair accounts. Still, would be nice to see.

  • Aric Brown

    If im not mistaken i believe both played some safety in college with Spence being defensive captain at the safety position

  • Ryan

    From every report ive read Shazier took every first team rep at LILB and none at any other positions id say its pretty safe to say thats where hes playing. Usually if thats not the case theyll move guys around.

  • joed32

    I trust them too I would just liked to have seen it.


    I was hoping for a corner, but when they called Shazier’s name I was confident that it was a good pick. Dennard was the obvious choice, but when they passed on him, to me that meant they thought Shazier was a special player. And that is what the 1st round is about, getting star players not drafting for need.


    1-5-5 nickel!! bring the confusion!


    disagree. Shamarko is a taylor made Strong Saftey. Has the speed and hits like a tank. I can envision him forcing a lot of fumbles if he eventually takes over for Troy. Spence is depth at linebacker at this point. I’m rooting for him.

  • Asmitty56

    How many small speed rushers do you see in the NFL? Not very many and there is a reason for it. A speed rushing LB might get to a QB a few times, but eventually teams will learn and know how to game plan around it fairly easily. The best way you can hope for success from pass rushers is a combination of speed, strength, and different pass rushing moves. Now saying that, I’d love to see Timmons, Shazier and other blitz the middle and ocassionally from the edge, because with their speed they’ll at lest pressure the QB if not get a sack, especially if the O-line men have to deal with multiple ILBs and OLBs blitzing.

  • charles

    There are two classical ways that the OLB gets to the qb. One is a bull rush, the second is to beat the tackle to the edge and that is where speed comes into the picture. Harrison had unique strength and was able to do both, where Taylor was mainly an edge rusher. I believe that Lawrence Taylor only weighed in initially at 220lbs. Taylor was once the most feared player in football, especially after he broke Theisman’s leg in two places. Game plan all you want, game plans don’t always work and good players have a way of flat out ruining them.

  • Asmitty56

    I find it hard to use a player’s performance decades ago for an argument for the style of play of a player today. Not to mention LT was a unique player at the time.

  • charles

    What hasn’t changed is that bulk in the middle is still how it is done. Speed is on the edges. Period.

  • Asmitty56

    Not necessarily. The main reason McLendon has been kept around is because of his ability to collapse the interior of the pocket, although he can get by with anchoring. Big NTs who can’t pass rush or pressure the pocket are going extinct, just as much as 255lbs+ run thumping ILBs and MLBs.

  • charles

    Asmitty I am enjoying the conversation. I also had hopes for Mac. Unfortunately the Dline including Mac did not live up to standards.Woods seemed to have better push. Too bad we lost him. The Dline is the quiet side of LeBeau’s D. Underperformance there renders 3-4 a weak defense. While this draft has generated excitement like the early 70’s, it would be nice to find a Joe Green gem amongst our potential new players.
    Interesting that you say big nose tackles are going extinct when we drafted McKullers, and signed 250lb Blount