Pittsburgh Steelers: Defensive Player Spotlight – Ryan Shazier

When it comes to whether the Pittsburgh Steelers will have a great season defensively, a lot will factor on the health of inside linebacker Ryan Shazier.

When healthy, Shazier is capable of playing at an elite level. His speed to track down opposing running backs is uncanny. While covering the middle of the field in pass coverage, his hands are good enough to make any quarterback pay for a underthrown or errant throw in his direction.

Ryan Shazier had 87 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 9 tackles for loss, 7 QB hits, 3 interceptions and 9 passes defended last season.

With Lawrence Timmons gone, and with much respect to James Harrison, this is Shazier’s group now, and they will look upon him to provide leadership and lead by example with his play.

The Steelers defense is poised to be at its best since the 2011 season when they allowed a league low 15.1 points per game.

“I have to make sure I have everything healthy and am ready to go for camp,” Shazier said. “Just make sure I’m on top of all my play study the best I can and have everything ready for the start of camp.”

Unfortunately, Shazier has missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury, but he finally returned to practice near the end of it and took some reps for the first time in weeks.

He is hopeful that he will be at 100% by the start of the regular season on September 9th in Cleveland vs the Browns.

“I definitely want to get out there so I can get warmed up into the season,” said Shazier, who made his first Pro Bowl last season. “You don’t want to go out there without any action against anyone else and be rusty. If I get the chance I’ll go out there, but that’s all coach Tomlin’s decision.”

Ryan Shazier is looking forward to some contact as soon as possible.

“I haven’t tackled anyone in camp,” Shazier said. “You always have to get used to tackling people and getting the feel of getting banged up. They put the whole playbook in. Communicating with your teammates is really big so I think I’m a little behind. I try to stay involved in the walkthroughs and the conversations the guys have.”

Shazier’s teammates still soak up his guidance while he awaits to return to action.

“I talk to him every day and focus on the stuff he does out there,” said second-year inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who has filled Shazier’s starting spot while injured. “It’s truly amazing. That’s the stuff I appreciate, being able to watch him and see him do something.

“If I have a question, I ask Shay, ‘How would you do this play? What are you seeing, what are your reads? Stuff like that.’ He’s so helpful. Being able to understand, learn, take a step back and listen to what he — and Vince (Williams) — are saying has helped me tremendously.”



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