Ryan Shazier, Ohio State (Zach Bolinger/Icon SMI)
For the Pittsburgh Steelers to get back to their old-school ways, the 2014 NFL draft had to produce some help in the defensive front seven. With pick No. 15 in Round 1, they took a big step forward, nabbing Ohio State ballhawk Ryan Shazier.
Shazier came off the board a bit sooner than some may have expected, especially because Alabama's C.J. Mosley remained at this spot. However, the former Buckeye was a do-everything LB in college -- stopping the run, defending the pass and, key to Pittsburgh's plans, blitzing the quarterback.
With Lawrence Timmons and Vince Williams penciled in as inside LB starters for 2014, the Steelers addressed an area of need.
Strengths: From the line back to linebacker depth and from any gap, Shazier has tremendous closing speed, and he’s very aggressive when looking to stop run plays. He moves through trash very deftly and uses an understanding of angles and tackling technique to stay with backs. Generally patient at the line before he moves to tackle; seems to have a really good sense of play recognition and he tends to overrun plays more than he’s fooled. More impressive is Shazier’s range in coverage; he’s a legitimate asset when dealing with backs, slot receivers and tight ends and can get this done from inside or outside positions. Shazier has the speed to chase from sideline to sideline, and he spies quarterbacks well while reading for possible throws. Tremendous vision and redirection ability allows him to peel off from coverage to tackle at the second and third levels. High-quality blitzer as long as he has space to move — if puts on the edge in passing situations he could reward the Steelers with a 10-sack season. By all accounts, a high-quality player and person who will lead and help greatly with defensive calls.
Weaknesses: Shazier’s size shows up as a negative when he gets blocked out pretty consistently in power situations, especially when offensive linemen are plastering him inside or outside on run plays. While he plays inside more than credibly, Pittsburgh may want to keep him outside to allow him to make more plays in space — he’s not a pure “thumper” in the traditional vein. Wraps up well at times, but relies on the potential kill shot too often and misses opportunities to stop plays as a result. Will lose play discipline at times and get misdirected.
Perhaps a bit of a reach, but I mentioned earlier this week that the Shazier-to-Pittsburgh dominoes seemed to be falling into place, with many of the teams above the 15th spot focusing on other areas of the field. Shazier is a classic Steelers fit: hard-nosed, aggressive, with a constantly running motor. The fans there will love him, and he should provide plenty of defensive help.
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