Shazier Confident That Williams, Watt Can Help Improve Steelers’ Defense


The Pittsburgh Steelers defense will certainly have a different look to it in 2017 and it will include two new pieces in veteran inside linebacker Vince Williams and rookie outside linebacker T.J. Watt. Gone this year, however, is long-time veteran inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who signed a two-year, free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins during the offseason. During a Monday interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio, inside linebacker Ryan Shazier was asked how he feels about Williams now replacing Timmons in the starting lineup.

“When I first got here, I know he started and things like that, but me and Vince, we actually work hard together and the coaches see that a lot and they’ve seen when he comes in he can perform at a high level,” Shazier said of Williams. “So, the crazy thing is, a lot of this stuff I’ve learned from playing the linebacker position either came from my coach, or watching and studying film with Vince. So, me and him have a really good rapport and chemistry when it comes down to being out there on the field together and we’re already thinking what the other one is thinking. I think that’s actually going to help out a little bit.

“I’m going to miss Lawrence, he was a good friend of mine. He definitely led me when I was playing and taught me how to be a linebacker, but with Vince, me and him, we actually study a lot of film together and we’re actually really good friends off the field and I think it’s definitely going to take us to the next level and help our defense get to where we want to get.”

While Williams is not a stranger to starting as he’s already done so 17 times due to injuries at the inside linebacker position since entering the NFL as sixth-round draft in 2013, he’s never done so with Shazier beside him. In fact, six of the games that williams started over the course of the last three seasons were because Shazier was sidelined with an injury.

Even though Shazier is comfortable with Williams replacing Timmons in the starting lineup moving forward doesn’t mean he didn’t learn a lot from his former teammate and especially when it comes to how durable he was, which is something Shazier has struggled with since entering the league in 2014 as he’s missed 14 regular season games so far due to injuries. Timmons, on the other hand, has only missed two games so far during his 10 years in the league with the last one coming way back in 2009.


“You definitely have to use Lawrence as a role model just to get out on the field,” Shazier said of his former teammate and inside counterpart. “He has over 12,000 snaps and there’s not a lot of guys in the NFL that have that many snaps and he never really missed practice. He never missed any games, he went out there with his hardhat and his lunch pail and got to work every game, gave you everything he had and I respect him in terms of that and he definitely taught me how to play the game of football at a professional level. And I just respect him for everything he’s done and I’m definitely going to use some of the knowledge that I learned from him to continue to play my game.”

As for Shazier’s thoughts on Watt, who is likely to platoon with veteran outside linebacker James Harrison on the right side of the Steelers defense in 2017, he said Monday he’s been impressed by the Wisconsin product so far during the team’s offseason practices.

“I think T.J.’s going to come in and help us tremendously,” Shazier said of the team’s first-round selection this year. “I definitely see his work ethic already on the practice field. We do get-offs every day and I don’t know if Coach Tomlin is serious or he’s just messing around with us, but T.J. wins almost all of them because every time we’re always complaining, all you hear is Coach T say, ‘T.J., T.J., T.J.’ Because you know, we’re all racing to try to win.

“But, he has a great get-off, you definitely see his motor and every time when it’s time to talk about football, or the plays, he knows what he should know and when it’s time to make a check, or do something a little bit different on the defense, he’s right there and right aware with the older guys. So, me seeing him being able to do those type of things definitely brings confidence in what he can bring to our defense.”

  • Bryant Eng

    Dave, can you describe what “get-offs” are? Thanks!

  • CP72

    TJ Watt gonna be in the hall of fame before training camp 🙂

  • falconsaftey43

    Something that hasn’t been talked about much, but I think would be interesting. Could Watt/Dupree help solve the Steelers TE coverage issue? 3rd and longs, instead of replacing Williams with a safety, you could put Harrison, Dupree, Watt all on the field. Dupree and Watt both have the athletic ability and size that should make them a good matchup against most TEs. Dupree played off the ball a bit in their underfront, and Watt played off ball some at Wisconsin too. Something to think about.

  • Bryant Eng

    I’m sorry, but this post seems to be in the same realm of move Shazier to Safety, Martavis Bryant to TE, etc. The Steelers drafted Dupree and Watt to get after the QB. They will drop into zone some times (often compared to other teams), but the last thing this team needs is Watt and Dupree 15-20yds downfiled tracking a TE down the seem. Good riddance.

  • WreckIess

    Not really. I mean, both played all over the defense in college. Dupree in particular has experience playing ILB. Not saying it’s a for sure solution, but it’s definitely not a stretch.

  • Conserv_58

    It’s how fast a player goes from his stance to getting off the ball, once it’s snapped, as fast as he can.

  • Bryant Eng

    Right, but I was hoping Dave Bryan had intimate knowledge of the specific drill being conducted in practice, as the context of Shazier’s statement suggested it was a colloquial term for a drill.

  • Bryant Eng

    Dupree has played exactly zero snaps as a buck/mack in the NFL. Arthur Moats hasn’t played inside, Jarvis Jones volunteered to play inside and didn’t play inside, Harrison hasn’t played inside and really no OLB in recent history has. So, I just have no idea what you are talking about?

  • Conserv_58

    I think it’s the drill where the defensive players/linebackers are lined up and either Joey Porter or coach Mitchell simulates snapping the ball.

  • Conserv_58

    Here is a quote from the Post Gazette’s, Ray Fittipaldo’s chat transcript: “As for inside LB and Williams, it’s an important position on this team but not as important as OLB. He will be used in base packages as a run-stopper. He’s not likely to be on the field all that much in nickel and dime.”

    Apparently, Vince will not be on the field on passing downs. Then again, it only confirms what we already know about Vince’s lack of speed. His contract extension also reflected that he would be limited in the kinds of snaps that he’ll receive.

  • Conserv_58

    That is a scenario that is interesting to ponder, especially considering that the Steelers like to have many of their players to have position flexibility.

  • WreckIess

    No. Dupree hasn’t in the NFL, (he has played some off ball LB though) which is why I said “in college”. Dupree was an ILB for his first two seasons in college and Watt played some snaps from the off ball LB position in College, also. Dupree has also said that they’ve been moving him around a lot during these OTA and Minicamp sessions so this isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

    I’m not saying that they should play every down ILB or that they are successful, but they do have the size and athleticism to cover TEs along with some experience.

  • Alex Kozora

    It was a weird comment, I thought. Who is playing LB in nickel?

  • Conserv_58

    My thoughts exactly.

  • Alex Kozora

    I don’t think Ray understands nickel. Williams has never been removed there when he’s played. Dime, sure. Nickel, no.

  • SilverSteel

    Lol. True

  • falconsaftey43

    When the Steelers deploy their over front (Alex has a post on it 6/17) Dupree in fact plays an off-ball LB position, essentially a 4-3 OLB.

    It is nothing like asking to move Shazier to safety or Bryant to TE. I’m talking about using players in ways they have already been used (either by Steelers or at Wisconsin). Yes, they were brought in to rush the passer, and that’s what they’ll do most of the time. But when you have 3 quality OLBs with Harrison, it gives you flexibility to use all 3 at the same time, and thus one will not be on the edge. They’ve actually deployed 3 OLBs on the field before at times (I believe it was with Jones, Harrison and Worilds).

  • falconsaftey43

    Exactly, not talking about a position switch here, but just another way to use guys in certain situations to take advantage of the players you have.

  • Bryant Eng

    The Steelers rarely deploy the over front. In fact, I doubt it has been charted against anything accept for Jumbo Packages. Your post specifically suggested using a personnel package that utilizes Shazier, Watt, Harrison, and Dupree, presumably in unison with a four man front (Heyward and Tuitt?). Assuming 2/3 of Harrison, What and Dupree are rushing the passer or playing the run, that’s leaves 5 personnel to match up with, let’s say 3WR/TE/RB. The question you have to ask yourself, assuming – for hypothetical sake – Mitchell/Davis/Sutton/Cockrell/Burns are also on the field, if you’d rather have Dupree/Watt/Stafford or Gay on the field as your 11th guy. I just don’t see how putting 3 OLBs on the field, like you suggested in your post, makes any sense, particularly against teams that know how to mix and match.

    I think your reasoning was well intentioned – Watt and Dupree are good athletes, but one is a rookie with tons to learn, and the other has played minimal man coverage during his, well his entire life. It takes years to learn the nuances of man coverage even if you are a gifted athlete (see, Ryan Shazier). It’s just not realistic and it’s not going to happen.

    However, in the 1 percent of snaps against jumbo formations, good riddance to Dupree if he has to follow a TE down the seam.

  • Bryant Eng

    Ok bud.

  • WreckIess

    From what I’ve read he’s improved at defending the pass this Spring. Not sure by how much, but one guy said he’s improved.

  • John Pennington

    You never know who might shine when the pads come on.Maybe a player who is under the radar might come forward that’s what make camp fun you never know whats going to happen who might get beat out or who will shine.You never know what UDFA throws his hat into the mix to be considered. Cant wait let’s get it on.

  • Zarbor

    LOL….yup after hearing all these comments. Geesh.