Steelers' young linebackers eager to make mark
Ryan Shazier epitomizes the evolution of the Steelers linebacker corps: The rookie inside linebacker is fast, strong and smart.
So far, the only unanswered question about the team's No. 1 draft pick is his durability. He already has missed a few practice reps in training camp because of a series of aches and pains. He was laboring on his left side one day, then favoring his right the next.
Yet defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau can't wait to see Shazier in game action. He's convinced the Ohio State product is the real deal.
“Ohio State asked me to do a lot, so it's become easier to understand this defense,” Shazier said. “I'm doing what they ask me to do.
“I don't have a problem playing. I'll continue to do what I've done in the past. We talk about learning the defense from my eyes.”
LeBeau might have to wait to see how Shazier responds in an NFL game. Coach Mike Tomlin said a decision on Shazier's availability probably won't be made until shortly before Saturday night's preseason opener against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.
LeBeau, though, figures he has seen enough of his young linebackers to bolster his confidence in their abilities.
“They've been very much a pleasure for the whole coaching staff,” LeBeau said. “They know they've got a lot to learn, and they're very open to coaching.
“We don't know when, but we're expecting some pretty good things out of these guys. I don't want to overload their expectations.”
That might be too late. The expectations already are high for Shazier, Jarvis Jones, Jason Worilds and Vince Williams.
“(Shazier) has exceptional athletic ability,” LeBeau said. “I think he's going to be able to make a lot of plays for us.
“We're going to be fast there. We've got four fast guys there. We're coming along with some depth, and we're still looking to develop that.”
The young linebackers, under the tutelage of veteran Lawrence Timmons, still are learning the game. Yet unlike past years, they aren't afforded the opportunity to watch and learn. Instead, the classroom is the playing field.
“For years, the linebacker position has stood strong for this organization,” Jones said. “We're trying to build on that, but we have a lot of respect building to do here, and we have to put our foot down.”
“We know we have all the ability we need,” Worilds said. “We just have to put it all together.
“We all have speed and things that make all of us unique. The continuity of knowing where you're going to play has made a big difference. It's one thing to learn this position. It's another having to play it, and I've had to learn to play both outside positions.”
The Steelers' 55-31 loss to New England was a snapshot of the 2013 season, illustrating the need for athleticism at linebacker. A still-mending Rob Gronkowski had game highs of nine catches and 143 receiving yards.
“If we're not sound technique-wise, guys like Tom Brady will expose you,” Jones said. “We need to use our speed and quickness to blitz and bring a lot of pressure to make teams do the things they aren't comfortable with. The key is stopping the run because it will allow our athletes, especially the linebackers, to make some plays.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.
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 QB Roethlisberger not targeting Oct. 25 return
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin not worried about Jones’ lack of sacks
- Steelers’ Bryant returns from drug suspension, ‘won’t happen again’
- New Steelers kicker Boswell ready for challenge at Heinz
- Steelers notebook: Shazier practices, hopes to play Monday at Chargers
- Steelers cut Scobee, sign free agent kicker Boswell
- Missed field goals haunt Steelers in OT loss to Ravens
- Steelers-Ravens grades: Scobee rhymes with ‘D’
- Rossi: Put this Steelers loss squarely on the kicker
- Steelers notebook: Safety Mitchell shrugs off Ravens WR’s comments
- New book credits Nunn for Steelers’ 1970s success