Ryan Shazier settling in on defense

PITTSBURGH -- A new, complex defense apparently isn’t the hardest thing Ryan Shazier has found navigating when it comes to Pittsburgh.

“It kind of stinks when you’re driving around, you’ve got to use your GPS everywhere you go,” the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker said. “I’m getting used to the city, and the longer I’m here the more comfortable I’m going to be.”

Shazier has already found a measure of comfort at weakside inside linebacker.

A starter there since the outset of offseason practices -- a rookie rarity even for ballyhooed first-round picks like Shazier -- the former Ohio State star has made steady progress during organized team activities, which conclude today at Steelers' headquarters.

Shazier has flashed -- and boy did he ever when he made a leaping interception of a Bruce Gradkowski pass on Wednesday -- while settling in on a defense that is in transition.

“On a scale of one to 10 I’m probably about a six or a five because I still have a long way to go,” Shazier said when asked how well he knows the Steelers’ defense. “But at the beginning of OTAs I was like a two or a three. Now I’m getting more comfortable, talking to the guys, communicating.”

Shazier’s speed will give defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau flexibility as far as playing the 6-1, 237-pounder all over the field. And LeBeau is at his creative best when he can use the speed and versatility of players such as Shazier to keep opposing offenses guessing.

Shazier is still a long way from winning the starting job alongside Lawrence Timmons at inside linebacker.

But if he performs as well when the pads go on at training camp as he has in shorts and a jersey it’s hard to imagine anyone mounting a serious challenge for Shazier’s starting job after the Steelers report to St. Vincent College on July 25.