Steelers take Ohio State linebacker Shazier in first round
When Larry Foote went down with a biceps injury in Week 1 last season, the Steelers were forced to sign an inside linebacker off the street to play.
Even with major needs at cornerback and wide receiver, the Steelers went back to their favorite school — Ohio State — and favorite conference — the Big Ten — to draft Buckeyes inside linebacker Ryan Shazier in the first round Thursday night.
General manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin repeated the same phrase to describe the 6-foot-1, 237-pound Shazier, a fast, disruptive, high-motor player who ran a cornerback-like 4.38 40 at his pro day.
“What we needed was a defensive playmaker,” Tomlin said. “He gets after the quarterback, he's rushed the passer and makes plays in coverage. … Quite frankly, the man doesn't have any holes.”
“He's a defensive playmaker,” Colbert said. “And as coach said, we need defensive playmakers. … This guy can flat-out run.”
The Steelers have lost a succession of such players — LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, James Farrior, Aaron Smith — to age and contract issues in recent seasons, and it partially led to their 8-8 records the past two seasons.
Shazier is a certified stats accumulator — 14 career sacks, 441⁄2 tackles for loss, nine forced fumbles, a Big Ten-leading 143 tackles in 2013 — but some teams considered him undersized.
While Shazier said, “My weight is perfectly fine,” Colbert said, “He has to get stronger, he's going to have to get bigger. There's some big guys that will get on him on occasion, but usually he figures it out the first time and he'll go make another play.”
Shazier, the son of the Dolphins team chaplain, is the third Ohio State player drafted by the Steelers in the first round since 2006, following defensive end Cam Heyward (2011) and wide receiver Santonio Holmes (2006). Shazier also is the 16th Big Ten player drafted by the Steelers in the past 10 years.
Even with players such as Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, Louisville safety Calvin Pryor and Southern Cal wide receiver Marqise Lee on the board, Colbert said Shazier's playmaking skills and speed were too unique to pass up.
“You think about the inside rush possibilities with him, Lawrence (Timmons) and Troy (Polamalu) and whoever else we add to the mix is exciting,” Colbert said.
“He's going to make plays all over the field for us. … He plays with a great deal of urgency,” Tomlin said. “He just represents what's going on in football today. … With the (offense's) ability to spread people out, you need people that can play vertically and horizontally.”
Still, the first reaction from a Steelers defensive teammate player wasn't exactly congratulatory. Cornerback Ike Taylor tweeted, “Huh?”
It's the second year in a row the Steelers chose a linebacker on the first round — they took outside linebacker Jarvis Jones of Georgia last year — but the Steelers consider Shazier to be an inside linebacker, even though his last 29 college starts were outside.
Sixth-round pick Vince Williams started most of last season inside, after Foote was lost to a season-ending biceps injury, and Kion Wilson was signed off the street to replace him for several weeks.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers notebook: Mitchell to miss beginning of training camp
- Steelers won’t negotiate Roethlisberger extension until after season
- After year off, Steelers’ Pouncey ‘ready to go’
- Steelers cut linebacker Kion Wilson, sign cornerback Toler
- Five questions facing Steelers entering training camp
- Despite fulfilling promise to mother, Steelers’ Tomlin not yet satisfied
- Polamalu enters training camp as Steelers’ longest tenured player
- In open AFC North, it’s anyone’s game
- Timmons feels pressure to transform Steelers back into contender