Pittsburgh Steelers rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier retuned to the field Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts after missing the previous four games with a right knee injury. However, even though he returned to action, the Steelers first-round draft pick still played five less snaps than Vince Williams did in that game.
According to head coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers will likely continue to rotate Shazier, Williams and Sean Spence alongside veteran Lawrence Timmons moving forward.
“As Ryan worked his way back we were going to limit his exposure and really limit his exposure to minimize his snaps,” Tomlin said Tuesday during his press conference. “Obviously Vince is a guy that worked extremely hard and has been a part of the rotation, and not only this year, but last year.
“The bottom line is that through adversity and injury and so forth, and drafting, that we have four inside linebackers that are very capable men. And we’re going to continue to use combinations of those three guys along with Lawrence [Timmons] to meet our situational needs. And that may change during the course of football games, it may change week to week, but we’re just acknowledging that Ryan Shazier and Sean Spence and Vince Williams are all capable inside linebackers and we’re going to use all of them.”
When Williams has entered the game, he generally plays the strong-side spot and that in turn results in Timmons moving over to the weak-side spot that he played several years.
“Lawrence just has position flexibility because he’s played just about every linebacker position in our defense during the last eight years. Both inside and outside. Both base package and sub package, said Tomlin. “I just think more than anything, as we mix and match those guys, it speaks to the experience and versatility of Lawrence.”
The decision to rotate Shazier, Williams and Spence in the near future probably shouldnt be too surprising as Shazier has missed quite a bit of practice and playing time over the course of the last several weeks. He will eventually be the starter, but for now he will have to concentrate on getting himself back up to where he was prior to suffering the knee injury.
It should be noted, however, that Spence only played one snap Sunday against the Colts, so we’ll have to wait and see just how much he will be used in the rotation moving forward. I’m guessing it won’t be much.