We got a little bit of an unexpected development in the final practice session of training camp yesterday when veteran inside linebacker Ryan Shazier finally made an appearance on the practice field for the first time in something like two weeks, having spent that time recovering from a hamstring injury.
While the Pittsburgh Steelers were in pads for the practice, according to our own Alex Kozora, the intensity was down deliberately as the team focused more on working on situational football, with some game planning mixed in. Perhaps that was a factor in getting him back on the field when they did.
But even though he managed to get back on the field, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is going to be ready to play tomorrow in the Steelers’ second preseason game against the Falcons. Having already missed the first game, perhaps there might be some semblance of pressure for him to be out there, but even if that were the case, the benefits likely do not outweigh the risks.
In fact, he told Ray Fittipaldo yesterday that he is not going to be playing in the game, but that he would like to get into a game before the regular season starts. “If I get the chance I’ll go out there, but that’s all coach Tomlin’s decision”, he said.
He admitted that he had not tackled anybody during training camp, and that it is something that you always have to get used to every year. “Communicating with your teammates is really big so I think I’m a little behind”.
I think we all know by now that Shazier has a history of getting injured; but he also has a history of returning from injuries too soon, and he himself has admitted that it takes him a few games after returning from an injury before he feels like himself again, and the numbers show he’s right.
One problem with him not being out there is the simple fact that he and Vince Williams have worked very little together, not just over the course of this offseason, but over the course of their careers. Because the bulk of Williams’ playing time has come at Shazier’s expense while he was out injured, the reasons for this are obvious.
But the fifth-year inside linebacker is stepping into the starting lineup full-time now to replace Lawrence Timmons, and he did concede a few days ago that it is at least a minor concern that the two have not gotten a lot of opportunities to rep things on the field.
In that sense, it would obviously be a good thing if Shazier were able to get on the field tomorrow, but I don’t see the Steelers being anything but cautious with him. Were this the third preseason game, the story might be different, but I had no doubt in my mind that the coaches will hold him out of this one.
The Pro Bowler spoke earlier this year about how his reputation of being injury-prone is something that he takes seriously, and that bothers him, and is something that he was hoping to avoid this year, but a nagging training camp hamstring injury has done him no favors. Still, we are still a few weeks away from playing any snaps that matter, and if he doesn’t miss any of those, all will be forgotten.