Rookie Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier wears the number that previously belonged to Larry Foote and his position coach doesn’t think the similarities between the two players stops there.
“He reminds me a lot of Larry Foote in terms of football intelligence,” said linebackers coach Keith Butler of Shazier after Tuesday’s practice. “He is a very sharp guy. He has a lot to learn, but he is picking it up fast. He understands concepts very well.”
Football intelligence isn’t the only good trait that Shazier possesses, either, according to Butler.
“He is a fine young man in my opinion. He is confident, but not cocky. Those are two good traits to have in this league because sooner or later somebody is going to make you humble,” added Butler. “He knows that. He knows he is a rookie. He realizes he has to earn the respect of his teammates and he is trying hard to do that.”
Shazier has been the starter inside since the first day of OTA practices and baring something totally unforeseen, that job will remain his for several years to come. His athleticism and speed inside is something that the Steelers haven’t seen since Kendrell Bell started during his rookie season way back in 2001.
“A lot of speed,” said Butler, when asked what he’s seen so far out of the Steelers first-round draft pick. “We can move. We’re going to be a faster defense, that’s the good thing about it. Its something that we cant coach as coaches. When you’re fast, it’s a God-given gift of being fast and we’re a faster defense than we were last year.”
During Bell’s rookie year, he recorded nine sacks and 83 total tackles on his way to being named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. Whether or not Shazier can come anywhere close to that season during his rookie year is yet to be seen, but based on the offseason practice reports thus far, he’s definitely headed in the right direction and fast.