If there’s one knock on Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier as he continues to prepare for his fourth NFL season, it’s the fact that he’s had a hard time staying on the field at times because of various injuries. During a post-OTA practice interview with the media on Tuesday, Shazier was asked about what it’s like for him to read stories about him possibly becoming one of the league’s top inside linebackers if he can manage to stay healthy for a full season.
“Honestly, that’s one of the most painful things, because it’s not like people get hurt on purpose,” Shazier said. “I know I have the ability to be one of the best linebackers in the league, or even in the game, so, I just want to do the best I can just to stay healthy. Do what I can to help this team and just show everybody what I really can do, because I really feel like I can be one of the best players.”
While Shazier has indeed missed 14 regular season games so far during his first three years in Pittsburgh, he has played extremely well at times when he’s been on the field and fully healthy and especially during the playoffs. Even though the Steelers former first-round draft pick out of Ohio State did miss three games during the first half of the 2016 regular season, he went on to start 13 straight games, including the playoffs, once he returned from a knee injury in Week 7.
Shazier’s 2016 season ended with him being selected to play in his first Pro Bowl, albeit as an injury replacement, and he talked about that honor on Tuesday.
“It was huge,” Shazier said of his Pro Bowl selection. “That was one my goals that I wanted to reach and I just plan on continuing to make it and do what I have to do, and just let people understand how I can help this team and bring my game to the table.”
The Steelers appear to have full confidence in Shazier’s future moving forward into the 2017 season as evidenced by them picking up his 2018 fifth-year option this past April. This upcoming season, however, Shazier won’t have veteran Lawrence Timmons playing beside him as the long-time Steeler signed a free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins this past March.
“It’s a little different. That’s a guy [Timmons] that I’ve been here with for the first three years of my career,” Shazier said. “He had been with the Steelers for about nine years, so it’s a little different. But me and Vince [Williams] have a great relationship, we’re really good friends, we hang-out outside of football and everything, and also watch a lot of film together, and joke around, and know each other’s family. So, I feel like him stepping in, he’s going to do really well as well.”
While Williams already has 17 regular season starts underneath his belt through his first four seasons in the league, him finally starting and playing alongside Shazier in 2017 will certainly be something new being as Timmons never missed a game since the two younger inside linebackers arrived in Pittsburgh.
“Vince is going to be a great guy to come in and help this defense,” Shazier said.
Last season, Shazier registered 87 total tackles during the regular season and only Timmons had more than he did. Also, Shazier’s nine regular season tackles for a loss tied him for the team lead with veteran outside linebacker James Harrison. In short, if Shazier can manage to stay healthy in 2017, he figures to put up career numbers in all statistical categories and ultimately be selected to go to the Pro Bowl once again even though we all hope he has to bow out of the annual all-star game in order to prepare for Super Bowl LII in Minnesota.
“I definitely feel like this year could be my year,” said Shazier. “I feel like I have the ability to be one of the top players. I just have to show everybody and be healthy on the field and continue to get better every day.”