Ryan Shazier Debut Worth The Wait

Pittsburgh Steelers rookie first-round draft pick Ryan Shazier made his NFL debut last night against the Buffalo Bills after he was forced to sit out last week’s preseason opener with a bone bruise, and the wait was worth it.

The raw statistics themselves are impressive. In less than a half, the inside linebacker recorded nine solo tackles on defense, adding another two tackles on special teams, and capped it off with an instinctive and athletic interception in front of tight end Scott Chandler.

No other player on either side of the ball really even came very close to matching those numbers. He recorded the same number of tackles against a starting defense as Dan Molls did against reserves a week ago, with three of them being assists.

Of course, the performance wasn’t simply statistically significant. It was not just the way that he executed those plays that was impressive. It was also the way that he carried himself that instills confidence in him.

NFL.com put together a handy package of some of Shazier’s highlights from last night that begin to portray his strong debut.

Even as well as Sean Spence and Terence Garvin have played so far, Shazier left no question in anybody’s mind that he deserves to be the opening day starter at inside linebacker for the Steelers, the first rookie to start a season on defense for the team in over a decade.

And he won’t simply start—he has the potential to be a difference-making player instantly. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if he leads the team in tackles and finishes the year in the running for defensive rookie of the year.

I can’t be entirely sure that I’m not convincing myself of seeing something that I want to see, but it also seemed almost as though his playing was infectious, inspiring the veterans around him to step up their game as well.

I could see Shazier and Lawrence Timmons holding a competition to see who racks up the most tackles in each game and at the end of the season, the way James Farrior and Larry Foote once did when they were in their prime.

Of course, this was his first game as a professional, and he was by no means perfect. He slipped after taking a poor angle against Chandler later in the game, and as a result, almost gave up a first down on third and 27. Those are certainly third downs that you don’t want to allow to be converted on defense, even in the preseason.

But one gets the sense that this is just the beginning of a long journey for Shazier and the Steelers, who quickly wiped away any lingering doubts from fans about the team passing on wide receivers and cornerbacks at the top of the draft.

About the Author

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

    I can’t wait to watch this kid for next ten years.

  • steeltown

    Absolutely amazing.. 9 solo and 2 special teams tackles in less than a half.

  • Giahead33

    Same here!!! I was so disappointed last week that he didn’t play….been waiting since the draft to see him play, lol!!! Like the name of the article says, it was well worth the wait!! Dude is a beast!!! All over the field like Polamalu!!! I have a great feeling about this season!! The rest of the defense looked great as well, Polamalu still looks great, and Ben and AB and MW were on the same page!!! HERE WE GO!!!!

  • 2443scott

    for a first game you would think he would have jitters and do ok but he didnt seem to have any at all and played liked a vet…..i can just imagine once he gets a couple years under his belt what he will turn into….. hes a rookie did i say rookie i just cant get my head around that …his play will just improve the rest of the guys on the def they will see what he does and want to be like him ….

  • Weiss Chad

    From the time I mocked shazier to steelers in the first rd to last night I envisioned him playing like that.I really didn’t plan on him having that much of an impact first game though.the kids a play maker,you know when urban Meyer comes and shakes your hand and tells you how much of a pleasure it was to watch him play that says something.Thats something I’d say about Troy polamalu

  • Weiss Chad

    Basically first qtr

  • SteveM2

    …plus a pick.

  • dgh57

    A lot of assisted tackles tell me a guy is around the ball a lot whereas 9 solo tackles was impressive and tells me he was the first guy there which was in turn made possible by the very reason we drafted him, his speed, athleticism, and in that something extra in having what it takes between the ears to be able to digest both plays and Coach LeBeau’s defense this soon. It’s going to be a pleasure watching this guy play this year!!

  • Jacque Strappe

    He’s a boss. Glad he’s in a steelers uni. I apologize for my profane thoughts when his name was called in the first round.

  • Jesse Murray

    No worries Clowney will get all the MSM press because he got a sack.

  • SteelerMike

    Awesome to see the Steelers hit a home run picking him. Physically gifted, apparently smart and simply a great football player, Shazier looks the part of the truly elite, impact players entering the game these days. Glad he is wearing a Steelers uniform. He just might end up being their best first round pick in about a decade.

  • dave

    He could end up be the most impactful defensive rookie since Kendrell Bell. (Hopefully he has a much longer career than Bell).
    Pretty hilarious thinking back to all the post-draft posts about how the pick was a “panic move” and the story that the Cowboys wanted to take him with the next pick was a cover up by the Rooney-friendly media, the Shazier pick was a mistake, yada, yada,,,,

  • cencalsteeler

    Let’s bubblewrap Shazier for the rest of the preseason. Since camp is over, maybe Kozora can sneak into Ryan’s house on a weekly basis and plaster posters of next weeks opponents all over his house. For week 1, blanket his house with Manziel posters. Imagine the influx of paypal donations then…..no more mickey D’s, I see steak and potatoes in his future.

  • Matthew Marczi

    I’m pretty sure there was even one Steelers blog like two days after the draft ripping the pick and calling out an article I wrote about how he would contribute to sub-packages as naive.

  • Jason White

    I’ve been saying since shortly after the draft that Ryan Shazier will be the defensive rookie of the year. Even over guys like Clowney and Mack. As long as he stays healthy all year I see him having that type of season. I’m gonna go ahead and take a stab at his season stats. 135 tackles, 105 solo, 4 INTS, 5 FF, 9 sacks

    I see him being that good, that fast. That guy has a motor that never quits. If he has anything near the season I described I think you will be seeing the Steelers playing well into January. To paraphrase George Costanza, WE’RE BACK BABY! WE’RE BACK!

  • joed32

    With all the talk about CBs and WRs I thought Dennard was the pick for sure. When they said Shazier I said “who?”

  • Brendon Glad

    He looks like his football IQ is high. And that can make a slow NFL LB look quick, an average-speed NFL LB look quite fast, and a fast NFL LB look even faster. So at 4.38, I think it’s fair to be quite excited about Ryan Shazier. Just gotta try to hold myself back until I see that he can take the pounding. Kendrell Bell flew around really well too, for awhile. But he’s still well worth getting excited about, just like Bell was.

  • Virdin Barzey

    No one is second guessing this pick now. Remember when many thought we should have taken a receiver? I was one of them. Did not know much about Shazier but once I watched the vids, it was clear, he has something you can’t coach. Speed.

    I only have two concern for him. His tackling and his health. He gets better at tackling and stays healthy, get ready to buy a number 50 jersey. Reminds me of when Pola came on the scene.

  • Steelers@2010

    I agree, it was worth the wait. Never heard oof this kid, but then again, I don’t follow the players in college like the NFL. I was really hoping the Steelers would have landed the CB the Browns took, but glad they got Shazier. Dallas was on the phone with the kid right before the Steelers took him. I’m excited, I’m concerned about the CB’s though. Thi should be one interesting season. I’m actually traveling to Philadelphia Thursday to see the starters play. Typically, the starters play the entire 1st half well into the 3rd QTR. I can’t wait.

  • Jacob Dixon

    Only part of article I disagree with is leading the team in tackles I think that would be Timmons

  • MC

    I watched this guy very closely in this game and he looked awesome. Good recognition skills, good pursuit, just an all round great game.