The Pittsburgh Steelers shocked most fans when they selected linebacker Ryan Shazier of Ohio State University with their first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Here is a breakdown on their selection.
Weight: 237 pounds
Strengths: The top strength for Shazier is his speed. He ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at this year’s combine, and that speed will be needed on a defense that is not only aging, but lacking speed. Along with the speed is his versatility. Shazier played both inside and outside linebacker at Ohio State, and he will be able to be on the field for multiple situations for the Steelers. Unlike some linebackers who struggle in pass coverage or against the run, Shazier can do both and will be an every down linebacker. He was considered by Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer to be an extremely intelligent football player, and the statistics to back up his smarts. Coming off back-to-back seasons with 115 or more tackles, Shazier has the speed and acceleration has him considered to be a top-five linebacker in the draft with great sideline to sideline speed. The Steelers view him as a player who can make a difference in his first season on special teams and in their standard defense.
Weaknesses: He’s considered to be a longer athlete who lacks the bulk of a typical NFL inside linebacker. At times Shazier’s speed can lead him to be over aggressive and over pursue ball carriers. He must focus more on tackling form and wrapping up rather than simply throwing his shoulder at ball carriers.
Overall: Although surprising, this was a great pick by the Steelers who desperately needed to upgrade speed and in the inside linebacker position. Shazier is a defensive playmaker with the speed and burst that has been lacking on the Steelers’ defense since Troy Polamalu began having injury issues. Shazier could see significant playing time at inside linebacker as a rookie, and he might be able to not only play the position, but be a difference maker.