For the past two seasons it’s been all about the vast potential that Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier possesses. Now, coming into the 2016-17 season it all comes down to the Ohio State product realizing his potential, becoming the possible Pro Bowl linebacker that many thing he can be in the middle of the ever-improving Pittsburgh defense.
If last season during the stretch run for the Steelers was any indication of his growth and future outlook, Shazier is well on his way.
There was the 15-tackle performance against San Francisco, the 8 tackles and half a sack against Cincinnati and the two 13-tackle performances against Baltimore in the regular season and again against Cincinnati in the playoffs that really showed just what Shazier has in store. However, it was far too inconsistent at times, especially during the middle part of the season.
That’s where the third-year pro has to take the next step for this season’s version of the defense to be the best it can possibly be.
With Lawrence Timmons still in his prime and dominant pair of defensive ends in Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward, Shazier is often a key defensive piece that gets overlooked at times, but that could all change this season should he continue to put up the impressive numbers he did down the stretch in December and early January.
During that stretch, Shazier was the best player on the field defensively for the Steelers as he made plays sideline-to-sideline and flashed the exact reasons why the Steelers picked him in 2014 as the No. 15 overall pick.
Now, heading into his third season in the black and gold, the defense staff views him as a veteran, which is a great start for the 23-year-old linebacker who will turn 24 before the start of the season.
Aside from injuries keeping him off the field at times, there’s a lot to love with the fast, physical linebacker who fits the mold of the new-age linebackers in today’s game.
Should he build off of his dominant close to last season, we could be looking at a guy who might blow right past the Pro Bowl level and right into the mix for All-Pro in a stacked position.
It’s certainly not out of the question, especially with the talent level that Shazier has at his disposal.