There was a lot of talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers targeting a wide receiver or cornerback in the NFL Draft, but in the end they stayed true to their roots and philosophy and took a linebacker. Ohio State star Ryan Shazier is the man Pittsburgh hopes will become the next great Steeler linebacker, and he has the talent to live up to that challenge. However, there are some questions about his fit in Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense.
Shazier is a prototypical 4-3 outside linebacker, and he would have been expected to be an immediate playmaker at that position. In Pittsburgh, however, he will likely work as a 3-4 inside linebacker, so he needs to be given time to adjust. Shazier is an elite athlete for the position, and he could prove to be an excellent complement to Lawrence Timmons inside.
Shazier is a sideline to sideline linebacker who is exceptional in pursuit. He is a sure tackler who won’t give up big plays to the outside, which is welcome news for the Steelers’ 21st ranked run defense. Shazier is a true three down player who can cover the tight end as well, which is absolutely vital in the modern NFL. Shazier also is a capable pass rusher, and his versatility will give LeBeau a lot of flexibility and allow him to maximize Shazier’s talents.
The one concern with Shazier is his size and stength. 3-4 inside linebackers do not have as much protection from the defensive line as a 4-3 linebackers do, and they often have to take on guards one on one. Shazier has good size, but he will need to get stronger and be able to keep the weight on to maximize his effectiveness against the run.
The decision to take Shazier over Darqueze Dennard or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix came as a surprise to many, but Shazier certainly fills a need for the Steelers. This is an organization that has been based on outstanding linebacker for a long time, and Shazier was one of the best linebacker prospects in the draft. He will likely need some time to adjust to a new scheme, but he has all the tools to become a very good player for the Steelers.