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Mike Tomlin not discouraged by Ryan Shazier's rookie season

The Steelers aren't ready to move Ryan Shazier to safety because they expect him to get bigger. AP Photo/Bob Leverone

PHOENIX -- Questions of why the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t move Ryan Shazier to safety – or at least consider it -- seem to persist.

That is understandable given a build that seems slight for inside linebacker, the depth that the Steelers have at the position and the 6-1 Shazier’s speed, which is better than a lot of safeties.

But there is a very good reason why the Steelers have no intention of giving Shazier a look at safety.

They don’t expect the 15th overall pick of the 2014 NFL draft to stay at his listed weight of 237 pounds. Coach Mike Tomlin said the Steelers to expect Shazier to develop physically much the same way as Lawrence Timmons did after they made him their first-round pick -- also No. 15 overall -- in 2007.

“I often refer to Lawrence’s physical growth and development when I talk to Ryan Shazier,” Tomlin said at the NFL owners meetings. “Lawrence’s body was very similar to Ryan’s when we drafted him. He was a 20-year-old third-year junior when we drafted him. Obviously Lawrence’s body looks very different now as he pushes into his late 20s and we expect similar growth and development from all of our young people. When I pull out some 2007 and 2008 tape all of those young guys generally laugh at how small Lawrence looks.”

Timmons, who made his first Pro Bowl in 2014, did not play much as a rookie. He had to wait until his third season to become a starter because of the veterans playing ahead of him.

Shazier opened his rookie season as a starter but ended it as a reserve after missing seven games because of knee and ankle injuries. The Ohio State product did not live up to expectations that swelled -- perhaps unfairly -- after a sensational debut in the Steelers’ second preseason game.

But Tomlin said he was not discouraged by a season in which Shazier registered just 36 tackles and did not make much of an impact.

“He’s a third-year junior when we drafted him. We’ve had a great deal of success with acquiring those third-year type players. It’s not always instant success. Sometimes it is," Tomlin said. "Maurkice Pouncey proved he was a capable guy for us instantly, Lawrence Timmons less so. Le’Veon Bell had a big year in Year 2. There are plenty [of] examples of some of our most premier players being third-year guys when we drafted them so we expect him to grow in all areas and have the type of significance some of those others have achieved.”