All offseason we’ve heard about how the Pittsburgh Steelers might play more man and press coverages on defense in 2017. With that perhaps currently being the biggest buzz as the team continues to get settled into Saint Vincent College in Latrobe for training camp, Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier was asked Saturday how his job will change in 2017 if indeed the defense plays more aggressively in coverage.
“I think I just got to do a better job of guarding the running backs then, so they don’t throw it to them,” Shazier said. “So, obviously I feel like that’s definitely going to help us out as a defense. It’s going to be harder for teams to throw the ball if we’re doing those type of things. And I really believe in those guys [in the secondary] and I feel like they have the ability to shut teams down. So, I feel that might actually make my job a little bit easier.”
Even if the Steelers do indeed wind up playing more man-coverage during the 2017 season, there will be times when Shazier will be asked to cover out in space. While he’s easily the most athletic linebacker the Steelers currently have, he still needs to continue to improve his coverage skills and especially when it comes to his overall balance and fluidity. That needed improvement aside, Shazier still managed to record three interceptions last year during the regular season and he tied cornerback Artie Burns for the team lead in that statistical category.
If he can stay healthy the entire season, Shazier should register career-high statistics across the board in 2017. Missed games aside last season, he still put together an impressive year, but with that said, he knows 2017 can be his best year ever.
“I’ve just got to continue to grow,” Shazier said. “I feel like I had a pretty good season, but it wasn’t the season that I wanted.”