Steelers LB coach: Injuries set Ryan Shazier back, but size not a concern

PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Shazier will be eased back into practice Monday as the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie linebacker works his way back from a high-ankle sprain he sustained at the beginning of the month.

The first-round draft pick is likely questionable at best to play next Sunday against the visiting New Orleans Saints. If Shazier is unable to play in the Steelers’ first game following their bye, it will be the seventh game he has missed this season because of two separate injuries.

Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler acknowledged the missed time has set Shazier back, even though the latter has regularly attended position meetings and taken mental repetitions during practice.

“It happens a whole lot slower in our film room than it does on the field, so it’s not only a matter of knowing (the defense), you have to rep it enough that it becomes second nature. So in that sense he’s going to be set back,” Butler said. “It will arrest his development.”

Shazier has played parts of just five games after spraining his knee in late September and then spraining his ankle in a 43-23 win over the Baltimore Ravens. The 6-foot-1, 237-pounder is a bit undersized for inside linebacker at this level, and Shazier has already sustained three notable injuries going back to training camp.

Butler, however, dismissed any notion that the injuries have anything to do with Shazier’s relative lack of size at his position.

Butler said James Farrior, the Steelers’ standard for inside linebackers in a 3-4 defense, played at around 225 pounds in the latter part of his career.

Good technique as opposed to sheer size is more important for inside linebackers, Butler added, and Shazier, who just turned 22 in September, will only get stronger after spending a whole offseason with the Steelers.

“Mobility is more important than girth,” Butler said. “What you come to find out as a linebacker is you need the weight in the sense of the [blockers] you have to take on. But if you understand how to take people on in terms of technique, you need the mobility. You’ve got to be able to run to play this game.”