Ryan Shazier, Dick LeBeau Discuss Rookie Linebacker’s Progression

Pittsburgh Steelers rookie first-round draft selection Ryan Shazier sat down for an interview with Movin’ the Chains on SiriusXM Radio, during which he talked about what it’s been like so far in his first offseason and heading into his first training camp. While he was immediately inserted into the starting lineup, he talked about the need to earn his place and not take his position for granted.

I definitely have to earn everything I have. I feel like I’ve been trying to do that while I’ve been here. Everything coach has been asking me to do, I do it, and if I make a mistake I try not to make it twice and just continue to try to learn from the mistakes I made before. Just listen to the older guys, earn their respect, and just listen to everything they have to say, try to soak it in, and use it on the field.

Still, at times it doesn’t seem as though Dick LeBeau and the coaching staff is actually looking at Shazier as a rookie, or at least isn’t using him as a rookie in practice. Many observers have noted his movements on the field, and he talked about that as well.

“They’re moving me around a little bit. I’m just doing whatever the coaches ask me to do. They want me to rush, I’ll rush. They want me to cover, I’ll cover. I’m just happy to be here and have the opportunity to play for the Steelers”.

LeBeau was also asked about this phenomenon of throwing so much at a rookie defensive player, and he talked about the fine line between pushing the young player and overwhelming him, as well as the temptations of putting too much on him too soon.

We have to be a little careful early on with Ryan because he does have that flexibility, he can do so many things, and I want him to get comfortable in a few things, and then gradually put more on his plate. You have to remember he is a young college player, came out early, and is still in his first training camp.

But he’s doing great. I just don’t want to put too much in there. I want him to continue his growth, but as a coordinator, I would say that he is off the charts in terms of the stuff that you can do with him because he’s so fast. And his quickness—I knew he was quick, but he’s shown me some stuff up here that’s quicker than quick.

LeBeau was also impressed with the rookie’s demeanor, which he says he expected, but noted that it’s always nice to see it come true.

“Some things you don’t really know until you get them under your thumb and on your practice field. He has been excellent. His demeanor is what we hoped for and kind of expected. It’s always good to see it produced. His intellect is good, and his athleticism is kind of off the charts”.

As far as he’s come in his first few months as a professional, however, he’s also learning how far he still must go before he’s comfortable with where he is, both from a mental and physical standpoint. He talked about what it’s like to try to adjust to the professional-level arms of the NFL quarterbacks in comparison to what he was used to facing in college.

I’ve definitely been figuring out how good the quarterbacks are nowadays. I think I’ve been getting to my depths pretty well. Coach hasn’t really been complaining about my depth or my drops. It’s just the velocity on the ball, they squeeze it in the littlest window, and they make one wrong throw, they understand the next time they’re going to have it in the right area, because I feel like I almost had four picks, almost by the fingertips.

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

    When they drafted him, I was kind of surpised. I guess I though that VW would be fine in his second season. As time goes on, I am thrilled with the pick because they landed a player with legitimate “splash” play ability. This is something they apparently did not get with Jarvis Jones.

  • Michel Smiffi

    Be patient on Jarvis. He had a disappointing rookie season, as did Troy for example. He still is an extremely talented dude and will show it sooner rather than later. Last year, he always seemed to be one step late to get to the QB, needing a split second too long to beat the tackle. If he (and reports out of training camp seem to indicate that) used this offseason to increase his strenght and develop his rush moves, he could very well catch up this one step he always seemed to be late, and if that happens, he could end up sacking the QB quite frequentally

  • pittsburghjoe

    My concern is that he needed to get stronger and clearly understood the need. Apparently, he did not gain much strength in the off season. I think it will take another year for him to make the necessary gains in this department. That puts him at year 3, which is too long to develop for a relatively high first round pick.

  • D.j. Hoy

    I think Jarvis will come around this season. You caught glimpses of it last year and hopefully this year it comes together completely for him.
    What I am surprised to see is how much they are letting Ryan do. Some reports say he had lined up at just about every position on defense. That is so unheard of in Lebeau’s defense for a rookie.
    I am excited every year at this time because of the potential of the team, but this year it’s over the top.

  • dkoy85

    I agree. Think about what one more free agency period and draft will do to this team(assuming our picks develop the way they should).

  • d – b

    For anyone who’s watched the steelers more than 2 seasons – why the baseless expectations on rookies? ppl haven’t seen a rookie LB kill it in the past decade+, why think it’ll happen now? it’s an unfriendly system for rookies to shine in, we all know this, which is not an indictment of JJ.
    Also, i’ve seen ppl report he’s gained no weight – i haven’t seen anyone say he’s gained no strength. not one & the same….

  • Steel PAul

    Joe, I heard differently, so wanted to share. While Jarvis did not put on a bunch of weight, he apparently did plenty of strength training and is stronger. They did not want him at a different size, from what I heard when it was reported.

    Let’s see where he’s at this year before we decide anything.

  • whisn

    JJ needs to bring it this season, he is noticeably thicker this year in the upper body especially. If he doesn’t get it done, what’s to stop us having Shazier outside (their size difference is marginal), with Spence or Williams manning the middle?

  • Eric MacLaurin

    Shazier must think he’s dreaming. He’s couldn’t have picked a more perfect situation in the NFL if he was a FA. If he stays healthy and isn’t defensive rookie of the year it’s an upset. A big upset. I would be less surprised if he was defensive player of the year than if he missed defensive rookie of the year.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Joe. I couldn’t have said that any better so let me just say amen.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Again I agree with you here. When you draft a linebacker at 17th overall, you damn well better get a guy who looks like a beast or tasmanian devil or a a splash play guy. And Jarvis does not look like that guy.

    Everyone is saying have patience with him. And that’s fine. Fair enough. You expect to have patience with a 3rd or 4th rounder. But I expect a mid first rounder to show me at least SOMETHING his first year. Jarvis has shown ZERO.

    If it were a car analogy, we just paid $60,000 for a nice Toyota Camry. (Dependable. Solid. Fits our needs.) And people are hoping it turns into a 7-series BMW if we have patience…

  • Ike Evans

    Couldve swore this article was about shazier

  • treeher

    My concern is his age. He’s about the same age as Worilds. If he takes three years to emerge, you see where you are … that many fewer years of having a high draft choice at peak performance.

  • Madi

    He was not in pristine physical condition last year. He had some fat to shed. “Bad weight.” For all we know, he could have lost 10 pounds of fat and gained 10 pounds of muscle since January. That would make him the same size but way stronger. He said it was a big focus of his to gain strength this offseason. I’ll wait to see him in action before calling him a failure.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    How long have you been a Steelers fan? The fact that Jarvis Jones started any games at all last year is a big win for him. I’m sorry that you don’t approve of Lawrence Timmons or Cam Heyward, who didn’t even become starters until year 3.

  • Steelers@2010

    If he doesn’t make significant strides this year, I agree with you 100%. You don’t draft a guy as high as the Steelers did to have to wait three years for him to develop. I’m one of the fans that said it then and I will say it now; I can’t believe they drafted him based on the reports coming from the draft experts in 2013. Poor work ethic, not that good in practice, didn’t lift that much either. I hope he proves me wrong this year.

  • Steelers@2010

    Maybe the expectations are high because we often see numerous other rookies, many that were drafted far ahead of the Steelers Rookies, and they seem to be doing quite well. Then we look at our guys, they ride the bench for three years, play ok in yr 4, then depart via Free Agency. Maybe because the Coaching Staff is too reluctant to give some of the rookies a chance opting to go with aging veterans who are definitely in their twilight years.

  • Rufus Benard

    Do you people even watch football games? Your the same people that were calling Cam Heyward a bust this time last year. Troy was worse his rookie year than Jarvis Jones last year. He looks like the man they wanted to draft this year. Making plays all over training camp. NO rookie with the exception of Bell has started in our defense and looked anything other than lost. I think it’s a mistake to even have Ryan to start the season. Spence is having a lights out camp and knows the defense. I think they should ease him into it. We are very deep at Inside Linebacker.

  • Craig

    Good point, because maturity factor is easily forgotten in the development of a player- and often is the real reason for sudden growth in game/ team productivity.