PITTSBURGH – The knee bruise that cost Ryan Shazier almost two weeks of practice did not stop him from making a spectacular NFL debut last Saturday night.
Next up for the Steelers’ first-round pick: the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I keep telling him to quit looking at his daggone press clippings, but he’s really a pretty good kid,” Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler said. “He knows he’s got talent. He’s confident. There’s nothing wrong with the way he feels about stuff. He wants the respect of his teammates, and I think that’s more important to him. He’ll be all right.”
The concern Butler has with Shazier is that he doesn’t just show up in games but also gets the necessary work on the practice field. There is a correlation between the two, especially when it comes to a young player.
“He’s got a lot to learn and he’s got to be on the field to learn it,” said Butler, who is in his 12th season coaching the Steelers' linebackers. “He can’t be missing practice. He’s got to get himself in shape. If he does that he can be a big asset for us. If he doesn’t he’s going to be hurt the rest of the year and he’s going to be in and out of games and I’m not going to tolerate that from him.”
Shazier acknowledged after Bills game that he still has to work himself back into football shape after getting sidelined for a significant chunk of training camp. Butler said it is critical that Shazier do that so he can avoid the kind of nagging injuries that will cut into his practice time -- and stunt his development.
“You can’t miss a lot of practice and still be effective, especially as a rookie, and we are counting on him to be good for us,” Butler said. “We can’t afford for him to miss practice for us to be the kind of defense we want to be.”