PITTSBURGH – Ryan Shazier's head was covered in sweat after Tuesday's practice. He looked like a man working to reclaim his name.
After missing seven games as a rookie with an ankle injury and a sprained MCL, Ryan Shazier probably deserved a pass for his 36-tackle, no-turnover debut. He’s still expected to start at inside linebacker alongside Lawrence Timmons.
Considering his potential, no wonder why Shazier feels he underwhelmed with his performance.
“This is definitely a chance to wipe the slate, start off healthy and do everything I need to do to get back on point,” Shazier said. “Last year was kind of a disappointment for me because I felt I could have brought more to the team.”
Shazier has ridiculous speed for the position, running an unofficial 40-yard dash of 4.36 seconds at Ohio State’s 2014 pro day, another reminder why the Pittsburgh Steelers picked him No. 15 overall.
There’s a realistic chance that, when healthy, Shazier can record 100-plus tackles in Keith Butler's 3-4 defense because of his open-field tackling ability, especially in pass coverage. He’s a young piece for a defense restocking after several marquee departures. The Steelers have drafted a linebacker in each of the last three rounds.
Shazier must show he can stay healthy. Bulking up to 233 pounds, after playing in the mid-220s last season, should help.
“I don’t know if I have something to prove, but I have something to prove to my teammates,” Shazier said. “I’m just trying to help us get to the next level and get No. 7 Super Bowl. I want to prove myself to my teammates and that’s all that matters.”
The Steelers are preparing Shazier for “all-case scenarios” on the field, Shazier said. That’s crucial because the Steelers don’t view him as a specialist, but a linebacker that can play every down, tackle in the open field and rush the passer when necessary.
The Steelers’ defense will have several aggressive blitz looks involving linebackers. They need versatility from Shazier, especially with his backup, Sean Spence, getting 53 tackles in Shazier’s place last season. If Shazier isn't ready, Spence will be.
“Wherever the ball goes, I have to make a play around it,” Shazier said. “Open field, in the box, in pass situations -- I feel like anything they ask me to do, I can really help out.”