While the final preseason game is typically no more than a brief joyride for most starters, the Pittsburgh Steelers sent a few of their young starters on defense on a bit more of a cruise last week against the Carolina Panthers.
Among those was Ryan Shazier, who will be the first rookie to start a season on defense for the Steelers in over a decade.
After a strong debut and a rocky second game, Shazier settled down somewhat in the preseason finale, finding some success and showing his speed, but also getting out of place and missing a pair of tackles in the process.
The first missed tackle came on the second play of the game while he was covering tight end Ed Dickson in the middle of the field. Quarterback Derek Anderson threw to Dickson at the first-down marker, where the former Raven turned and stopped.
It seemed as though Shazier was in good position to tackle the catch, but the tight end ducked out of the contact and the rookie linebacker was send spinning around him as he fought for a couple of extra yards.
A bit later in the drive, the Panthers had first and 10 just past midfield. Anderson faked a wide receiver screen before handing it off to the running back. While initially flowing right, Shazier found the ball carrier taking the B Gap off the right guard and pursued. With Cam Thomas tripping him up, Shazier came in to take him down after a gain of four.
Still later on the same opening drive, the Panthers were just outside of the red zone on second and seven. On a carry up the left side, Shazier did a nice job to work off the block of the guard before coming after the ball carrier, but he was unable to reach him, and the play went for seven yards.
After the offense failed to convert on fourth and two, the Panthers began their second possession just short of midfield. On a zone run to the left, Shazier displayed good awareness as he worked around his linemen and cut in between the left tackle to reach the ball carrier and make the tackle after a gain of just one.
The Panthers’ third drive of the game opened with a long incompletion on first down. With another carry coming up the left side, Shazier got tangled up a bit with the right tackle at first, but after getting free, he and Shamarko Thomas both brought the back down with power after a two-yard gain. Another incompletion forced a second consecutive three-and-out.