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Friday, May 09, 2014

Steelers take Shazier and other thoughts

Looking at Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier during the run-up to the NFL Draft,  I thought he was a clone of Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons - only faster.

The Steelers apparently saw the same thing.

They made Shazier their somewhat surprising first-round pick Thursday in the draft, passing on cornerback Darqueze Dennard.

That move was sure to make Steelers fans angry, since most had settled on a corner or wide receiver being the pick. After all, those were viewed as the team's two biggest needs along with defensive line.

But really, the Shazier pick makes some sense.

The biggest need the Steelers had coming into this offseason was improving their team speed on defense. They did so at free safety, replacing Ryan Clark with Mike Mitchell.

Thursday, they got a lot faster at inside linebacker as Shazier teamed with Timmons gives them a pair of hit-and-run linebackers.

Shazier's addition also will get Troy Polamalu back out of the box, where he spent a lot of time in 2013 because the Steelers didn't have a linebacker other than Timmons who could cover, and allow him to play off the line of scrimmage, where his playmaking ball skills will be more evident.

And with cornerback and wide receiver being two of the deepest positions in this draft, the team will have the option of addressing their needs there in later rounds.

But linebackers who were productive in college and can run a sub-4.4 40-yard dash, they don't come around too often.

@ Shazier's hamstring issues in the offseason were a concern for me when I looked at him in the draft process. But they weren't as big an issue to me as the numerous injury issues Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley had.

Mosley might have been more of a sure thing at inside linebacker - and Baltimore picked him a couple selections after the Steelers took Shazier - but his injury history is downright scary.

Here's what I wrote in my pre-draft column for Thursday's Observer-Reporter, where I had the Steelers taking cornerback Kyle Fuller: "If Dennard is gone, the Steelers will look at corners Justin Gilbert and Fuller or inside linebackers C.J. Mosley of Alabama and Ryan Shazier of Ohio State.

Mosley would be a nice addition to play next to Lawrence Timmons, but had numerous injury problems at Alabama, while Shazier is a speedy run-and-tackle linebacker in the same mold as Timmons."

@ There are still some very good corners and wide receivers on the board heading into Friday's second and third rounds.

At cornerback, I like Rice's Philip Gaines or Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste in the second round as a possible Steelers' pick, or Lindenwood's Pierre Desir, Jaylen Watkins of Florida or Bashaud Breeland of Clemson in the third round.

At receiver, there are a bevy of guys still available, some who can probably come in and help right away.

I expect Marqise Lee and Jordan Matthews to go early in the second round, but Donte Moncrief of Ole Miss, Penn State's Allen Robinson Cody Latimer or Davante Adams of Fresno State would be solid picks in the second round. In the third, I'd look for Clemson's Martavius Bryant, Jarvis Landry of LSU, or Kevin Norwood of Alabama.


Patrick said...

I think they go DT/DE in the 2nd, because there will be some good ones there. Possibly Nix. Then 3rd Martavis Bryant is the guy. That obviously leaves a big hole at CB, but lets hope we got enough guys for that.

I hated the Shazier pick immediately. But I'm coming around to it. Is he the new NFL protoype Lber than you need? Thats really the question, because he is an odd size/shape/type for the Steelers considering Timmons. Remember when the LB core was Porter - Bell-Foote- Haggans ? Thats what the steelers are going for. LBers who can run like deer and beat these spread offenses/big TE guys in a variety of ways. Jones-Shazier-Timmons-Worilds is a fast fast group of 4. I'd guess fastest in the league.

I wish Dennard was the pick, but if this guy can make plays, then lets see it.

I actually hope the complimentary pick is Nix, so Shazier has a bright future nailing people with a DL occupying blockers.

Patrick said...

meant Farrior-Foote. Farrior obv had the longer tenure.

Though Bell was fast like Shazier is.

Lance said...

I am on record being an OSU homer, live in C-bus, went to OSU, taught at OSU. I had Denard or Fuller like most, as it was the biggest need no brainer most were thinking. I love this pick for several reasons:

1. Ryan is a stud, plain and simple, he runs faster than Sammy Watkins straight line and in space
2. Not only is he fast he is explosive, with very fast closing speed
3. Very high character guy everyone in C-bus loves him
4. Had he returned he would have broken the OSU records for tackles and TFL...look up that list, there are some good ones on there
5. Our needs are greater in the front seven, our D got bad when Farrior and Harrison got old and Woodley got fat.
6. He will start day 1, a CB would not have.
7. He is a 3 down backer and a huge upgrade over Williams.
8. Ther are plenty of corners and WR's that are not that far apart, there are not many ILB's in this draft, not this good.

I have seen a lot of people already crying bust on Steeler forums. These folks do not know anything about football. Had Ryan come back for his senior season and broken those records, he would have been a top 10 pick, easy. I am not a work out guy, I like to watch tape, but he was the stud of the combine, look at his freakish numbers for a LB, he is quicker than most CB's and it shows on film as well. I had the oppoetubity to see him play live this year and he looks fantastic in space, the dude cab a hurry. Welcome to Steeler nation!!

I think we may go DL/DE in Rd2, based on need and depth. We will see. I do think CB is our biggest need still, but trust the FO, we will address WR at some point, maybe a couple, but I do not think it is as big a need as most folks do.

adamg said...

Everyone who thought the Steelers would draft for "need" ignored their history of taking the best player at the top of their board. Their FA signings, imho, filled enough gaps to allow them to draft a player like Shazier.

While maybe the Steelers don't have the tall WR they'd like, they do have J Brown and Moye, both of whom have been working out with BR.

If the Steelers can get their NT in Rd 2, he and Shazier will go a long way toward making the current CBs better just by dint of improved front 7 play.

Noel said...

I agree that it was a wonderful pick and further that fixing the front seven provides some flexibility with how they draft corners. I did not expect it at all but very pleased. Last year we saw a focus on character players and it looks like that continues. They couldn't fix all their problems with one pick; I think they made a great first step.

marc said...

it appears Colbert/tomlin feel like they got a difference maker on defense, so that's fine with me. I am a little concerned how he will hold up if teams run directly at him versus him chasing a play down.

Anonymous said...

Shazier is a much better athlete than Timmons. Not even close.

In 7 years, Timmons hasn't been able to call the defense. Wonder if they are going to let Shazier do it.

Anonymous said...

Funny to see Colbert praise Shazier for his 40 and his youth one year after drafting slow and old Jarvis Jones.

Anonymous said...

One pick accomplishes -
getting a six round pick out of the starting lineup (Williams)
Gets Troy back to his natural position (not LB)
A backer with quickness to cover backs & receivers w/out replacing him in packages
Addresses several deficiencies with one guy who has demonstrated production and exceptional athleticism and character.

Anonymous said...

Also improves speed and versatility of the nickel - which is the base defense now.

marc said...

should we just go ahead and pencil in shazier for the pro bowl too...

Frank Beans said...

I think that would be prudent

Dale Lolley said...

As I said on the radio last night, after the New England game last season, the biggest takeaway was that the Steelers weren't fast enough at safety or linebacker to hang with the Patriots.

They signed Mike Mitchell and drafted Shazier. Speed problem solved to a great degree

DD said...

I question the pick, but am ok with it. I am more so interested in why/how Dennard fell so far. It wasn't just the STeelers passing on him. Thought he for sure would go to the Cardinals and they traded down when they could have drafted him.

kyle said...

For those hoping for Dennard, he played almost exclusively in press man coverage, he grabs a ton, and he's quite slow for a corner. He's still a first round pick and could end up being a good pro because he's a heady player and a good tackler and a help against the run but he seems to have a low ceiling and since the Bengals took him, let's hope that's the case.

Dale Lolley said...

Dennard did have some injury issues in college - double hernia - and had stiff hips dropping into coverage. It was part of the reason I liked Fuller as a better fit for the Steelers. But most had Dennard rated higher. Still he dropped and dropped.

Anonymous said...

Never said pro bowl- said "demonstrated production" (143 tackles) & "exceptional athleticism" (4.38 40). Sorry you object to facts, maybe we should spout cynical, unsupported opinion - but I see you've got that well-covered, so why bother....

marc said...

1. that wasn't directed at anyone, just an indirect reference to the eternal optimism that fuels the draft every single year.

2. drink some cranberry juice, it might help your menstrual pains.

Anonymous said...

My only real pain comes from dealing with morons like you, with your distinctly feminine passive aggressiveness "oh that wasn't directed at anyone"

marc said...

nothing passive aggressive about it. simply a benign comment.

you're just an idiot who misinterpreted it, and then misinterpreted the explanation as well.

Henigin said...

I guess the story about Sean Spence being fully healthy and the Steelers being excited to see him on the field was part of a draft smokescreen.

Anonymous said...

I was extremely excited about Shazier until watching him on tape. He doesn't look like someone you want in the middle of your defense against a power run scheme or a team capable of it. He just gets blown up at the point of attack if a body gets on him and if there's traffic around him where he can't shed the block. He looks like someone you would want on the weak side in a 4-3 where all he has to do, in theory is take on the tight ends.

Let me know what you guys see form him

Anonymous said...

A couple of thoughts:

1. After Fuller was taken off the board I was upset to think the steelers would be taking the 3rd best CB at 15. Then they took the best ILB. Huge upside. Much better pick.

2. So many Steeler fans are used to us not having any cap space to fill holes in free agency. That will not be the case in the next few years as the cap is expected to go way up. They needed to draft the best player on their board and not go with everyone's "perceived need" at CB.

3. Shazier plays in space. If the D-line plays the way it has in the past, they will gobble up double teams and keep timmons and shazier free. Could be awesome.

3. With that in mind, don't be surprised if Louis Nix is taken if he's still on the board. Would upgrade NT and DE by moving McLendon which has been stated recently is a possibility. I would personally love Hageman or Tuitt. Both monster DE that can get after it.

4. Don't get so feaked out about CB. We never take them in the first round!

5. WR is not as big of a need as everyone is making it out to be, as long a Wheaton played to his potential. A big if, but the kid has upside.

Anonymous said...

Is it amazing to anyone else that everyone was saying the Steelers biggest needs were CB and WR? They literally do not have a starting DE on the roster right now. If the season started today, Brian Arnfedt or Cam Thomas would be the starter. Doesn't that seem like a huge need?... Just saying'

Lance said...

Anon 3:46.

I watched most the Buckeye games, one at Ohio Stadium this year. If you watch him live, in space, it you can clearly see Ryan's burst to the ball and closing speed. He is not a run stuffer, but plenty good steeping into the hole and making the tackle. You do not get 40+TFL by accident, the kid can play. He consistently got better each year, and played 3 years so there is plenty of tape on him.

In the new NFL backers that can stay on the field 3 downs is huge, there are just not many guys like that, and with many CB's still on the board who are not a far cry from what was available in the first round, taking what was the only LB of this caliber makes sense, there is just no one comparable left, his numbers are just crazy, and he has the tape and production to match, unlike Mack taken much earlier.

This will make our DB's better and don't forget we got Mitchell and Shamrko in yr 2 (our 2014 3rd rounder). We went from slow to 4 guys (Mitchell, Shazier, Thomas, and Timmons) who are 4.4 guys or better. Our Nickel is much improved. I would like to see a DL/DE in rd 2 as corners look deep to me and they will not play much if any this year (neither would Denard have) Also, like a previous poster mentioned, we will have more $$ next year, we can get a solid CB if that is our only need, one who can step in and play. Our CB's got torched last year because our front 7 were bad, no splash plays. Rd 2 here we go...

Anonymous said...

It's not a matter of whether he's a good player or not I'm sure he is. The question is was he a better pick than Mosley?

Mosley looks much better on tape, sure he doesn't flash the same acceleration as Shazier but who does?

Anonymous said...

Mosely looks better on tape? I'll toss this out and then let you explain how Mosely looks better:

In 3 seasons combined Mosely had 21 TFL.

Last season alone Shazier had 23.5.

Shazier has more sacks, forced fumbles, tackles and the two arent close athletically. Shazier is faster, more explosive and outbenched 25-15 Mosely. What I saw on tape of Mosely was another Bama LBer being bled dry by Sabanomics. Shazier is raw in many ways but production, athleticism and health are all better than Mosely and it isnt that close.

Lance said...

A better pick than Mosley? Let's compare the numbers from 2012 and 2013, also remember Shazier is younger:

Mosley Shazier
T-107 116
TFL-8 17
S-4 5

T-106 142
TFL-9 22.5
S-0 6

Combine #s

Mosley Shazier
40-4.63 4.38
225-15 25
vert-35 42
Broad-9'10" 10'10"
shut-4.4 4.21
3con-7.3 6.91

So Shazier had better numbers than Mosley in 2012, and much better numbers in 2013, where he showed great improvement, Mosley stayed flat and declined somewhat. I am not a combine guy, I like to see what was done on the field, but the combine numbers are not even close.

Anonymous said...

I've been making the point for several years that there is a huge bias in the draft when in comes to SEC players. I post all my evidence, but is is astounding! Mosely was not a better player just because he played on a better team. Team play essentially has no bearing on the abilities of individual players. Draftniks have been giving the Steelers low grades for shazier and high grades to the Ravens for Moseley. Mindboggling!

Another interesting tidbit, our 3rd rounder last year had more catches, receiving yards, rushing yards, and touchdowns than Odell Beckham Jr. They are essentially the same size, and tested nearly the same.

The Steelers are great drafters. I can't wait to see what transpires tonight!

Anonymous said...

Nice someone brings up tape and you fire back with stats and measurable.

Shazier is going to have better stats than Mosley since he avoids blockers more often causing giant lanes to open up and chasing them down from behind (if he can even manage to get off the block) where as Mosley clogs up the lane like a linebacker is supposed to do and doesn't get anything on the stat sheet for his teammate getting credit for the tackle for the loss

Anonymous said...

I hope they don't go after Nix tonight. The 2014 NFL is about sub package football. Nix is a 34 player. He's a dinosaur.

Anonymous said...

I hope they go after Nix, why would you need him on passing downs with Heyward and Mclendon able to play third down.

kyle said...

I like Mosley (other than the dislocations, you can't brush that off) but the only part of his game he improved was shedding blocks and he still isn't the best in the world at it. Linebackers get blocked by linemen a lot. DeCastro is supposed to take Arthur Brown out of a play.

The distinction here is between linebackers who are good at one thing or another. There is no linebacker with Shazier's closing speed and ability in space AND Mosley's tackling and ability to take on a blocker in the hole. So you decide what you want, a guy who can make splash plays behind the line of scrimmage and possibly cover as well as a safety in the flat or a guy who can clog the hole and is better against the run?

I don't think one is better than the other but you have to choose. Even Patrick Willis and Kuechly can't lay claim to both extremes.

Vince Williams can blow up a pulling guard. Shazier can knife into the backfield. One of those is better against a running team, the other is better against the spread and running QBs.

Not to mention, Shazier is a young kid. No reason to think he can't get the other elements of his game to at least an acceptable level.

Anonymous said...


Mosley looked really good in coverage as well. I think because people don't see the measurable with him that they think he's not good in coverage. He got his hands on a lot of balls in college he just couldn't hold onto them.

Shazier may be better than Mosley against a zone run scheme because of his measurable going sideline to sideline but he wiffs on enough tackles that it's questionable. There's no question Mosley is better against a power run scheme than Shazier

Anonymous said...

Honestly Shazier has to develop his instincts because a lot of balls are thrown into his coverage where if he's just a couple feet in either direction he can make a play on the ball. Mosley seemed to be in better position in that regard

Dale Lolley said...

Mosley has better instincts than Shazier right now. That's about the only advantage he has. And the reason for that could be because Shazier has only been a linebacker for three years.

Remember, he's a true junior.

As for Spence, they took the opportunity to draft a better player. Can't count on Spence playing.

Anonymous said...

All of you screaming for cb/wr this is so much better!!!

Frank Beans said...

The Steelers are not drafting for need, they're drafting for speed!

Patrick said...

the Steelers just can't give up the scat back idea. Hate that pick. Makes very little sense.

Nick C said...

This feels awkward to type, but I agree with Patrick

Patrick said...

they may have well just called Chris Rainey to see if he wasn't busy at a blackjack table.

Frank Beans said...

You can't coach 4.26

Patrick said...

I think it is interesting that the entire Pittsburgh Steelers beat reporter crew completely missed the first three rounds of this draft. Like, completely.

Datruth had his finger on the second round pick and was closest so far.

Patrick, once again, my theory that you simply regurgitate here what you read on other websites elsewhere is completely borne out by your stupid ESPN draft.

So, anyway, Dale, appreciate the blog and keep up the good reporting. Credit to you for identifying both the first and second round picks as possibilities, which I think is as good as anyone can expect without having the Steelers HQ bugged.

Patrick said...

i love how my shot in the dark mock is the basis for me being an idiot, but not the fact that we just drafted a faster Chris Rainey in the 3rd.

Dale Lolley said...

They did a good job of covertly scouting Shazier. He didn't think they were going to take him. Thought he was going to Dallas

Frank Beans said...

Unless he has character concerns, he's no Chris Rainey