During the Pittsburgh Steelers first backs on backers drill that took place in training camp this year, defensive assistant Joey Porter made sure that rookie inside linebacker Ryan Shazier knew one thing.
“Speed is your asset!” Porter repeated over and over, according to Will Graves of the Associated Press.
Because of Shazier’s speed asset, the Steelers plan on moving their first-round draft pick around this season with hopes that he can wreck havoc as a pass rusher.
We saw this a little bit last year with then-rookie outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who was occasionally lined up inside in order to provide pressure in some of the sub packages.
“We’re going to move them around a little bit,” said linebacker coach Keith Butler of his group, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We’ve got some talented guys there, and we’re going to use them as much as we can and put them in position to be successful. We’ve got some speed, and we’re trying to utilize it as best we can.”
Jones refused to get into specifics when asked to talk about what defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has up his sleeve for his defense this season, but you can tell he’s excited about the possibility of moving around even more than he did during his rookie season.
“We’ve got a couple of packages with new people and new roles — we’re more athletic and coach LeBeau and coach Butler are able to move us around to play different positions, (in) different packages,” Jones told the paper.
In his Thursday practice recap, our very own Alex Kozora noted seeing Shazier rushing off of the right side with Jones lined up inside on one particular play, so that’s the kind of stuff that we can expect to see this year in order to not only take advantage of the speed of those two players, but confuse opposing offenses in the process.
During his first training camp press conference last Friday, head coach Mike Tomlin tried to downplay the speed narrative that has been used quite a bit this offseason to describe his defense.
“Speed is an awesome asset but it’s not going to be the defining asset for us,” said Tomlin.
That downplaying isn’t working too terribly well, however, as you can see the word “speed” is used by two different Steelers coaches in the quotes above.
You can’t help but be excited about what’s in store for the Steelers defense this season. If they can improve at stopping the run on early downs, they’ll be able to mix up their pass rushing schemes quite a bit on the subsequent obvious passing downs.
The Steelers absolutely have to up their sack totals this season and a plan using “speed” is being “moved” into place to do just that.